Poem: Pilgrimage


After that, it’s all a blur,

just a mass of people rushing past

to get somewhere that seems important,

and I’m the only one going the other way;

twelve years of elbows in the ribs.

Places I’d seen countless times

through the grimy windows of speeding trains

began to seem interesting,

to offer the chance of finding an answer,

or at least a question.

Stepping onto the platform

at a station I’d never heard of,

I felt like an old copper coin

handled and spun for thirty years

by dirty hands, bought and sold ten times a day.

The woman shoved by me and boarded,

slipping a photo and a ticket

into my hand. As the train pulled away,

we watched each other through bleary glass

and I knew I’d never seen her,

though the photo showed us together years before.

The ticket was standard class

to a city I’d never been to.

Leaving that day’s redirected postcard

on the bench, I went to ask about the next train out,

thinking that this time I’d upgrade to first class.

 

(from Exercises in Unreality, Agàpe Publications, 2002)

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