Monday, August 25, 2008
If You Miss The Train I’m On….
In songs & poems it seems someone is always gone—beyond reach: lovers, spouses, parents, family, friends, even the singer's or poet's past self. The singer or poet has had to move on to—where? A different future, a new place….
When I was young the trains still were running out of the depot at Bellows Falls, VT. There was one that ran about 3:00 a.m. Sometimes—especially on summer nights, it seems—I could hear the whistle moan; a ghostly sound, though at that age one doesn’t know much about ghosts… they’re just entities from "ghost stories"; they’re not a constant reality…
& then, too, there were whip-poor-wills down in the wooded area we called “the swamp.” It was low-lying, & was flooded most springs by the Saxtons River. Occasionally the river would come right through our backyard… but that’s another story…. & yes, you could hear the whip-poor-wills in the humid evenings as you tried to drop off to sleep, & yes, remembering that I can think of haunted Hank Williams & his beautiful ballad, I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry….
There was a time when I used to think abstractly about absence & the role it plays in poetry. It seemed wrong, somehow, unhealthy perhaps—it seemed as if a poet had to foster absence in his/her life in order to write. That was a long time ago, now…. time was different, then, & absence didn’t mean the same thing. It wasn’t irrevocable—no, somehow it could be overcome… perhaps in a poem or a song….
The train says: I’m going away; the whip-poor-will sings: You’ll never see me… These are the songs from a long-ago evening, a long-ago night. They’re the songs I’ved recalled, somehow, when I’ve written poems—the songs I recall when I compose a ballad on the guitar….
As I get older, I see gulfs between the past & the present. When I was a young man, these gulfs weren’t real—even as they were starting to form….
I told Eberle earlier this summer that when you’re young, poetry is about sex & when you’re older it’s about loneliness. Is this true? It may be. In some ways, they are two sides of our human state—sex, the apparent antidote to loneliness, though as we know from songs & poems galore, often the precursor to even more acute loneliness; later, loneliness itself….
But to sing a song or write a poem isn’t to acquiesce to loneliness…. it’s taking a stance somehow against it…. someone will hear, someone will understand….
The picture is me at the restored Duncan Mills, CA depot earlier this year—not apropos of absence, but apropos of trains…