Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, TRAIN STOP, by CLARENCE MAJOR

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TRAIN STOP, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The train stops

The train stops.
I'm trying to remember the name
of a woman at a train
stop like this years ago
who said she was possessed
by demons she called Enslaved Selves.
Gave them names
like Toxic Tamalina,
Malignant Majesta.
But wasn't her real name Karen
or was it Karla?
I gaze out the window
at the city's lunch counter
lights, wondering why
it feels like I've been here
in some sub-zero past stuck
in time -- nickname and all.
Through the window
I see a railroad-crossing bar,
Sam's Diner,
and beyond, a run-down town,
one with nothing coming --
either way. Two tow trucks
are stuck in mud.
A green light stuck on green.
The stillness is unfriendly --
dangerous as an uninspected dam.
I see the shadow of a woman
coming across the tracks.
Her name might be Karen.
Remember myself saying,
"Nice meeting you.
Hope you dispossess you . . . yourself --"
and her correcting me,
saying, "Selves," and, "Thanks."
Very rational. On second thought
her name might have been Karla
and the city might
have been Santa Fe
or Savannah. Caught
between foot trails and
foothills, it's hard to say.
I've lived a long time
and made about as much
impression as a polypod
on the rest
of the hope-and-grope garden.
Karen? The train was coming.
Red light stuck on red.
What I have to say about Karen
can be said in my last days
in the rest home
half out of my mind
on the sun porch
at midday midafternoon or midway
of a game of pool in the rec room.
She was kind, civil and kind --
and very rational. As sane
as any of us. Saner, underlined.
But will I live that long?
Surrounded by shady rock-walls,
spruce and sweet sedge
with a blue-eyed nurse taking
my pulse between her quick
cigarette trips out by the
whitewashed wall. But most
likely that other Karen
will be somewhere too,
with her memories of
having slipped her enslaved
selves off to places like
Saginaw and Sacramento
releasing them, like little
birds tossed up set free to fly.
She will watch them
huff and puff, up over the
yucca and the yew.
They will beat their motorcycle wings --
crotch-rockets hit by a windstorm.
But don't count on any of this
or the special symbols:
emotional ports of entry,
lonely airports where she
might be spotted, telling her story
to stranger after stranger.
Don't count on seeing her
on a ferry crossing over
from the mainland to the island,
or next to you on the train.
As I say, the name might be the same
but the heartbeat is purely individual.

Used with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P.O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA
98368-0271, www.cc.press.org

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