TRAIN

i

She meets a mathematician
and defines herself as 1/2.
She meets a musician
and resurrects her clarinet.
She meets a philosopher
and re reads Descartes.
She meets a carpenter,
she wants to work with her hands.
She is a mirror,
a smiling reflection
of the better qualities
of someone else.
She has been told,
without words,
that she is an empty circle,
a dimension defined by
the circumference of another.
She is a hollow space
which must be filled.
She is a void.
She is a vacuum.
She grows tentacles which stick
to everything they touch.
She learns to suck in,
to fill herself from the outside.
She polishes her nails,
she is a hand.
She scrubs a pan,
she pats a child,
she touches a man.
She is the gentle underside of everything,
looking out from the plating on the mirror
to a world that is six inches wide
and flat.
She is round.
Her world view
cannot make sense.

I tell you about realizing
the slave psychology of women.
You want an explanation,
hard data.
It is one of my surrealist painter times,
when I can only speak in color and shapes.
I say a bilious green against
faded sunflower yellow,
an amoebic shape with vertical lines
through the middle.
You say not hard enough,
not hard enough.
I walk away muttering,
nothing is harder,
nothing is harder.

Were you taught to please?
Were you taught to serve?
Were you taught to want nothing,
to ask for nothing,
to expect nothing,
to demand nothing.
Were you taught
to be nothing?

ii

I am trying to understand gender.
I read that “the division of a species
into male and female is simply
an irreducible fact of observation.”
You tell me I am a non stop train,
that I am impenetrable.
You have given up trying
to move me past abstracts,
you converse with me in metaphors,
knowing now I cannot process facts.
I am collecting train metaphors
from men I have known
who talk about whistle stops
and LOCO motives.
I come home from an Amtrak holiday,
defining the train as the perfect union
of the male and female principle,
both phallic and embryonic.
And I do love the train,
more rhythmic than the rain.
Rhythm and motion.
Rhythm and motion.
Rhythm rhythm rhythm
and motion.

I wake you in the night,
I want to discuss how much
I love the sound of rhythm,
how its sounds and shapes
work so well together.
I wake you in the night,
I want to discuss the sound of brook.
I say listen to the word brook,
how it has so little sound of its own,
but lets you know so many.
You say you haven’t thought of it before,
but yes, it is as nice a word as any.
Any minny, miney mo,
listen to the train go.

I am trying to understand gender
and you tell me I am a train.
And I do love the train
because it moves past things
which stay still.
I am in my room,
immobile.
I pace the floor,
and ask questions
about words.
You sit in your chair
and try to convince me
it is all socialization.

We discuss Mamet’s characters.
I find the sexist male most appealing,
he is at least alive.
I fear the women who remind me
of lint picking in laws,
who complain about table manners
and maneuver their men like wheel barrows.
I tell you I cannot comprehend the relationship
a homosexual has with gender,
but then I don’t understand mine either.
The cats in the garden are mating,
the lady up the street has just had a baby,
the fruit trees have bloomed here in mid winter.
It is that time of the month when I am frightened
and want the whole world to hold me,
I feel that empty.

iii

Just when I an finished being angry,
I get mad all over again.
Standing in the theatre line,
color slides of myself flash up,
there is an image framed in white
of my life defined through passive resistance.
I see it again and again,
saying passive resistance
does not a revolution make,
and on and on.
I see the person being still,
saying no, but never moving toward,
only guarding against.
I curse my mother for teaching me
only this passive resistance
and not how to wage
an honest war.

You tell me I am a little person,
have little hands and little feet,
ask what is on my little mind.
Despite my talks on diminishing adjectives,
there is this still.
I try to be attracted to men who are large,
so if I have to be smaller than,
I can still be big enough for me.
When we meet I imagine I look
straight into your eyes,
you point out that this
is just another illusion,
one more way that I am crazy.
You lead me to the mirror
where two people stand,
one of whom is somewhat taller
and what has this to do with reality?
You tell me I am a tough cookie,
you tell me I am a train.
I do not point out that trains are driven,
you fail to see they are not free,
overlook that emulation,
as they say,
is the highest form of flattery.
It is motion that I admire in men,
the ability to act.
But men want only that I should stop
on schedule to let them on,
so they can complain that
I have taken them for a ride.

iv

Women are taught to see love
in gardenias and green formals,
and to affirm it throughout their lives
in cloth napkins and clean floors,
while their husbands comment
on their tremendous ability to love,
which means to give their life away in inches,
without complaint.
Women see love as something
which happens to them,
and not as something they can do.
So they wait in their rooms
for love to happen to them,
and waiting, it is said,
kills women more than anything.

On Saturdays, I am agitated
because you drive and I must wait,
I cannot explain my life,
stolen away in minutes
by children and men.
I am trying to understand
love and gender,
and you tell me I am a train
with little feet.
You forget that trains may not know
where they are heading.
I cannot explain that there
is more to woman than
small feet moving fast.

I propose a head on collision
as a better option than being run over,
but you hate travel,
do not like the trains.
And this is only half the debate.
Why are you at the station
if you don’t want to wave at trains?
You say I am a tough cookie,
I am not allowed to crumble.
You will not let me be less than steel.
You are nervous when I lay new tracks,
you keep dead cows on the old ones.
And the line on the scrap paper says,
“women buried in their wedding rings,”
women buried in their wedding rings
who died from waiting.
You’re right, I keep moving.
I don’t want to wait so long
I die from it.
I keep moving
like the train.

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