A Visit - Poem by Tom Sleigh
What she is waiting for never arrives
or arrives so slowly she can't see it:
Like the river
and wearing minutely deeper into its channel,
the flow hardens to carved stone as she fidgets
beneath the whirling fan
impatient for the train
that rocks us above the water to arrive:
Her sisters and brothers gone, she ventures alone
weaving shadowy faces across the peeling walls...
—Speeding toward her, is it you and me she spies
in the trembling train
windows while the engine
hauls us down rails that swerve under wheels
rolling through her brain? Faces burn
through dirty glass,
smears of lips and eyes
dissolve to spots of darkness swarming between
her eyes so that swaying apartment towers
crumble as her nostrils
prickle from the landfill's
ammonia that hangs above the stacked, crushed cars.
The rails that take us to her pass boxcar after boxcar
like the successive selves we are
as she dreams us coming closer,
switching track to track: Now the super unbolts
her door as she calls: "Oh is it really you?"
—the wheel's rolling
through her head bringing
us face to face with raveled bandages, crutches
leaned in dusty corners, terraced mountains of
Framed above her chair
a picture of a prairie sprawls round a covered wagon
and the horse she rode as a girl, her eyes
fading points of light...
Again she calls out
above the train's approaching rumble: "Is it you at last?"
My eyes have got so bad peoples' faces
are all blurry...Now
tell me, is it really you?"
But already the rails are switching, bearing
our waving hands away at the speed of thought
over the stony waters that
ceaselessly pour out.
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