The Way

he boarded at noon,
frail in his mud patterned robes,
casting no shadow
on the platform that had forgotten its name;

we let the silence drip into the space between us,
the empty sound, a misshapen cup between strangers,
collecting smells and voices and half-seen landscapes,
that the senses discard like oversized clothes,

as wheels and tracks count the seconds,
the dusty breath of the summer fields
streams hot against our bodies, bent politely away,
trapped in a time frame thrust through a restless carriage window;

I woke up to the shrieking hush of a motionless train,
the hard berth pushing my bones into an alien light,
he was staring into the dew threaded morning,
his lips moving in an unbroken prayer

something (or someone) is dead on the tracks,
four hours we’ve been standing here, a woman said,
I saw his dark ringed eyes floating like unslept oil
over the trembling azure of his face,

I threw off the blanket of sin and despair
that had slumbered with me all night,
journeys cannot be between two points,
his stillness asked, what do you call arriving?

I leapt down from my lofty height
my naked feet seeking the floor beside his,
I let a ripple break in our brimming cup,
Sir, can I bring you some tea?

Linked to Dverse Poets where the prompt is “Travel” – Because there’s nothing quite like travelling in a second class train compartment across India…an entire lifetime of experiences crammed into a few hours!

33 thoughts on “The Way

  1. I enjoy reading train journals as the trip always bring strangers together in sometimes unexpected ways ~

    I am guessing he is a spiritual guide or leader ~ I specially like how you captured him here:

    he was staring into the dew threaded morning,
    his lips moving in an unbroken prayer

    Thanks for linking in with Poetics & wishing you happy week ~


  2. Profound. You capture that feeling of travelling across India and bought back my own memories of doing the same back – complete with the wait for hours as the tracks were cleared after some one jumped in front of the train!


      1. Yes, it was a train going across northern India many years ago. Now that you’ve raised the memory I can’t actually remember where I was travelling to but I do remember the train stopping for hours in the afternoon and an Indian man explaining what had happened.
        Memories of my travels India are always good – even the tragic and the macabre somehow have their place in the mosaic.


    1. These things do happen though luckily (I suppose) my own trips have only been delayed by weather or strikes or technical snags! But I do miss the train journeys now that they seem so few and far between. Thanks Sherry!


  3. This reminded me of a friend who has traveled far and wide and many times to India and I could just imagine her having a similar scenario. I enjoyed your vivid accounting…very well done!


  4. This is such an evocative, stunning line: “I threw off the blanket of sin and despair
    that had slumbered with me all night”–wow! That is a heavy overnight trip for sure!


      1. That we see it at all is testament to the little bit of humanity in us that makes hope possible. That we deny it at the same time is testimony that that hope makes steep demands of us, and that is as frightening as it is liberating.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I think a train trip can be so many travels at once… The inner journey that we make is so much more important than the travel between two stations… love the connection created on this journey between the narrator and the man… I see life springing from the one left dead on the tracks. Your poems just gets stronger and stronger every time.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. i suppose an interesting part
    of communal travel where
    time becomes now
    without words
    is a vision
    of non
    but of course
    with smart
    phones faces
    become screens
    and the person across
    the aisle of seats may
    never even
    but anyway..
    or cold..
    as travelers come and go..
    who is dead or who is alive
    increasingly difficult to measure..:)


    1. Absolutely Katie… its true we don’t even acknowledge the presence of others, lost in the rectangular world of our phones, being alive seems real only if we are acknowledged in our virtual avatars….thanks so much for reminding us of how petty it can all become.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I really liked this poem, as it spoke metaphorically of reality. You have given us the sights, sounds, and feelings of the journey & allowed us to be right there enroute with all the other travelers!


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