Sunday, November 30, 2008

The local

You've watched him become undone,

station by station. First it was just his face

gone slack in afternoon sleep, around Harrisburg.

And then, in Lancaster, you watched his cuff ride up

showing a pale length of shin that won't see sun again

until his August vacation.

And when his newspaper cascaded to the floor

one section at a time, it was finally safe

to set your book aside for a moment

to study the man and his bag

tilting together like two drunks on a bench.

Midway along another long curve,

the train sways all down its length,

just as every fan stops turning, and somewhere

a baby you didn't hear crying suddenly stops.

and you realize you've lost count

and can't name the next town.

You might have to wake the man

whom you heard on the phone an hour back

saying that today was the biggest day of his career.

When the train finally emerges from that no place

between towns, back into the world

of zip codes and cellphone service,

you will look for the station sign, so you can read it

for both of you, blinking in the sudden light,

both surprised to hear the name

that won't seem right for this little station

with hanging baskets of flowers

and no one on any of the iron benches

waiting for you to arrive.

Mark Aiello