In Atlanta, I could hear trains passing by, even from thirty-five stories up in the air. On stillest nights in Gambier, I can hear the trains passing in Mount Vernon, five miles away. I have wanted to write for you about distant trains for so long: I took this picture in March, planning to use it for a train post, and yet I'm still not there. Perhaps this writing wants to be a longer piece. Or perhaps it's something so obvious as not to want to be written at all. Perhaps it's simply too close right now--which would seem to be ironic, given that what I want to write is about the opposite of closeness, because it is ravaging me again, because I am nowhere close, because the nearest sounds I hear are the ones trickling through the night from elsewhere, on nights when I am farthest from here.
When I was in love a decade ago, I kept a copy of this poem on my wall. Then it was a different thing to me.
Words, Wide Night
Somewhere on the other side of this wide night
and the distance between us, I am thinking of you.
The room is turning slowly away from the moon.
This is pleasurable. Or shall I cross that out and say
it is sad? In one of the tenses I am singing
an impossible song of desire that you cannot hear.
La lala la. See? I close my eyes and imagine
the dark hills I would have to cross
to reach you. For I am in love with you and this
is what it is like, or what it is like in words.
-- Carol Ann Duffy
La lala la. See? This is what it is like, or what it is like in words. Somewhere I am singing an impossible song. Shall I say it is sad? This, too, is one of the too-present tenses I would have. Yet in these dark hills I am singing away: crossing the turning room is impossible. For I am the distance between us, thinking I am in love with you and this. I close my eyes and imagine this night's pleasurable moon, wide desire's other side. And slowly you cannot hear, not what it is like, not even what it is like in words. Shall I cross that out to reach you?
Wide Night Words
(with apologies to Carol Ann Duffy)La lala la. See what it is like, or what it is
like in words? Somewhere I am singing
an impossible song. Shall I say it is sad?
In one of the tenses of desire that you cannot hear
I close my eyes and imagine
this is the other side of wide night,
the pleasurable moon turning away from the hills.
Cross out the distance between us, for I am
thinking I am in love with you and this.
Cross that dark and I would reach to have you.
The room is slowly of and on you.
Or this is.