Saturday, November 16, 2019

Riding the Comet

                                                             (photo by Rodger Kingston)

 Two power cars and a coach—
a machined aluminum tube
varnished against corrosion.

Riding the Comet from Boston
to Providence unsettles me
since this is a ghost train scrapped

when I was only five years old.
A few dry skeletons crumpled
in faded upholstery smelling

of mold and last century’s mice.
As the only living passenger
I huddle in the rear in case

this flimsy speedster crashes.
But ghost trains almost never crash.
And they rarely stop at stations

like Back Bay, which flashes past
in symmetries of concrete platforms.
Then underground to Forest Hills,

slinking along to Readville,
then raging over the marshland,
the Neponset River a flash

of gray. Then past Norfolk without
a pang of conscience. Canton, Sharon,
Foxboro and other suburbs

hardly crease my mental map.
We rip across the state line
and pierce a hole through Pawtucket.

At last I detrain from the dream
with Rhode Island’s snowy tombstone
of a state house hovering nearby.

Panting smuts of diesel exhaust,
the Comet departs in the mist.
I join myself in a cafĂ© where                                                 

I describe my railroad journey
with respect for the disbelief
self and other have in common.

Did that ghost train actually run?
That gleam of aluminum banded
with two shades of blue enamel

could be seen as winter light
refreshed and refreshing itself
in a corner of our mutual eye.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

That Gioconda Moment

The crowd of tourists facing
the Mona Lisa congeals
into a gray singularity.

I’ve never trusted that painting,
or Pater’s glib description,
which Yeats rewrote into verse.

The smile looks slightly manic,
the potato face seems rooted
in clammy earthen desires.

You expect me to worship
with those who look upon art
as the savior of their passions.

You want me to snap a selfie
with that fatuous smile askew
with a thousand old platitudes.

Look at the landscape looming
teary with mist behind her.
The trees look pubic, the streams

flowing through mythic places
one would rather read about
than visit while still in one’s skin.

That landscape is the part of her
Leonardo declined to paint
even to amuse her husband.

You know about such body parts,
and have cherished your own despite
the patina age has imposed.

The painting simmers with lust
that the lanky hairdo defies.
The wrinkled clothing is the shell

of the subject’s private self,
which you dare me to reveal
by blowing the portrait a kiss.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

A Great Leaf

Spouting from a flower-box,
a leaf three feet across waves
at passersby, threatening
or promising to enfold them
in green thoughts otherwise
available only in verse.

Most people ignore this plant
flexing its leaf like a muscle,
but I want to hear it fluster
in gusts of tropical rain blown
thousands of miles from the Gulf
up the Mississippi valley.

I can’t tell if the faint shiver
rippling across this massive leaf
is a farewell or some other thought.
Maybe it’s just enjoying itself
in that semi-sexual way that plants
stretch and preen in the sunlight.

Maybe I could learn something
from tissue more sensitive than mine,
something about touching more gently.
But you’re eager to collect the mail
and learn from cold print how deeply
debt plumbs us, how near the bottom.

When frost arrives and this leaf falls
the village will sigh with relief.
You laugh and drag me away,
leaving the whole plant fluttering
as if some microaggression
has soiled its perfect green day.