Tanya Larkin

The Quiet Car

In which we are carried
forward. The quiet in the quiet car
carried forward too.
Outside the train on the platform
on the street if you are still
you feel the wild rush of time
passing all around you
leaving you behind, stranded,
a part of you always
a child in a panic, trying so hard
to keep up with mother. Her skirts,
her skirts. If you could only
touch the hem—and grab hold.

But on the train, inside the whoosh,
the rattle and the jerk, you feel we
are going fast enough now we are almost
caught up. Inside the whoosh you feel
flush with it. You cannot feel
time pass in this room
chopped off the after-life
and hurtling down the tracks.

In which the unmarried tourists
point at their guidebooks. In which
the boy beside me drowses
as he struggles with his homework
a novel in which the heroine throws
a party while her foil throws
himself from a window.
I would like to remark
upon the counterpoint. I would like
to say I have read that. But this
is the quiet car. There are no cell phones
no conversations allowed.

Everything I do not say feeds the quiet.
Everything we give up we give up to the quiet.
Just to think a thought and hear yourself thinking it once
as you are carried forward (to or away from home)
is to give it away, to let it nourish the quiet
so it can grow big and strong and healthy
with enormous shoulders and long arms it can slip
around anything or anyone needing consoled.
Consolation, here, meaning just to be with.

The schoolboy overwhelmed by the precision
of a passage in the book--Not a sound could be heard
above the traffic. Unguided, it seemed; sped of its own
free will
--falls asleep, lets the words break up.
His brain and his body like a cup
always spilling over. Into sleep. Into the car.
Speeding it seems of its own free will.

There is a woman staring off
into the stubbled fields. The sun
through the leafless trees
strobing across her face. She is riding
in anticipation. She is botching another love.
The businessman beside her staring off too
thinking of someone--his daughter, his wife,
his immediate superior, how dull his ex’s
kids look in the Christmas card she sent.
I think of no one in particular. I see
the passing fields unlike the man
unlike the woman. There is nothing
between me and the burnt up fields,
between me and the earth.

I shouldn’t be proud of this but I am.
I shouldn’t relish the end of love
how it suddenly becomes unfocused
and dispersed, but I do. And now
Penn Station coming up in twenty.
Where the doors will slam back
and the quiet in the quiet car
released to meet the binding hush
at the center of all that chaos.
A lit candle lighting another.
Obvious but no less sacred
because so.

Tanya Larkin is the author of My Scarlet Ways, winner of the 2011 Saturnalia Books Prize, and the chapbook Hothouse Orphan (Convulsive Editions). Her poems have recently appeared in Ping Pong and The Boston Review. She lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

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