Coast Starlight


Out of the station. Out of the rail-yard’s braiding
and unbraiding tracks. Onto the one track
skimming the edge of the coast’s flat gray water.
On one side, marinas and houseboats
and the demolished timber mills’ supports, sticking out
of the water like burned matchsticks.
On the other side the crumbling spread of landscape.
Woods. Little woods where there are as many trees
toppled over as there are live ones. Moss
on everything an earnest green fuzz. The ferns deeply
wet, then the junk in the poor yards behind
factories, trailers, houses. Morning, and the light is
the day’s information.
                            What was I talking about,
talking about the place of the political
in poems, the students writing down what I said
to them. That you have to keep distressing the canvas
of the personal. That you need to ask what is
left out for beauty’s sake, to see how the unspoken
will inflect the things you have allowed yourself to say.
Now these marshy places. Grasses and cattails,
which are not caricatures of knowledge.
Pools of milky green water. And the creeks curving
into sudden sight like a heartache. The mind going
over and over things, not knowing what to do
with the world, but to turn it into something else.





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