Robert Darling is a professor of English at Keuka College. He has published poems and reviews widely in the United States, Canada, Australia and Great Britain. Winner of numerous awards for his work, Darling is also the author of a Twain series book on Australia poet A.D. Hope. Robert lives in western New York with the permission of his two cats, who also allow him to occasionally smoke a pipe, but not during dinner.
The Woman on the Train
copyright (c) 1997 by Robert Darling
A hint of beauty in a face lined with investitures of pain so human it seems out of place in the blank faces of this train just leaving Jersey City for New York and disillusionment. She doesn't notice my rude stare-- she has been lost to time, intent on other faces so far away this train becomes unreal to her. I'm off with friends to the ballet and she for something else, I'm sure. She is so gnarled she seems a serf exiled from Russian novels, a vision from other worlds wrapped in a scarf and shabby clothes. Did golden icons or men take the kisses of her youth? She may have been attractive once. But now I'm dreaming too--the truth might be prosaic as the Bronx. The train jerks back; we disembark into our own particulars whose total is the sum New York heaves toward a blinded night of stars. As the ballerina pirouettes and tests the body's gravities until the mind almost forgets the tortures of deceptive ease I think of her hunched form again. I see her younger, in a field at harvest time in a Ukraine I've never seen. And now I've failed to note what's here, I've missed most of this grand illusion I've come to see. What's it about? Most likely love. Its grace is alien to me. The ballerina condescends to earth at last. We rise and go. I listen to the talk of friends who praise the poise, the practiced toe that learned its art: to bear the weight of gravities, past and to come. The spirit bore the body's freight and found its equilibrium while I, who cannot dance, dreamed of that bent old woman in our car with pity for us both, with love for all that makes us more than what we are. Robert Darling
Don't miss Robert Darling's fine chapbook, Boundaries, available from Somers Rocks Press, c/o Arthur Mortensen, 505 Court Street, #4N, Brooklyn, NY 11231, available for $5 plus $2.00 S&H and any appropriate taxes (NY 8.25% or $.41)