“Ghost Train” by Rachel Guido deVries

Rachel Guido deVries


Smoke rises industrial in puffs that look innocent
as early morning fog over the banks of the Hudson,
its filth disguised as beauty beneath shimmery sunlight.
For long moments on the train I neglect death
and poison and the lies that let them live,
more potent than love, more lethal than rage.
Oh yet so lovely, I croon, the rippling river
in winter light, snow dusting the palisades
and river banks where still graceful trees bow
as though in devotion, or prayer, to earth,
to river, to air.

A girl in a canoe rounds the curve
of river and life hunches in its belly,
freezing and afraid. To run
with the river once lovely. To die
in fear of fist and madness, in blurry
eyes once filmed with lust and love
like a curse curled into speech,
the sneering and snarled mouths
of some men’s anger. She stands upright
in the rocking canoe, flings her arms high,
purpled with bruises and cold, skinny
and easy to snap as a sapling’s twigs,
but free, even to drown unknown
in this winding river, full of winter’s
cold, and the chemicals of his despair.

Like a carnival barker, a trainman
sings of pot pie for lunch in the diner,
of the man who plucked fifty chickens
in the deep of night, of the feathers
still floating down the aisles of the train,
wispy as dandelion fluff to wish on,
looking innocent as that industrial smoke
drifting all around us, remnants
of what we’ve killed, or are killing.

from Rattle #20, Winter 2003
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