The Northeast Corridor

By Donald Revell b. 1954 Donald Revell
The bar in the commuter station steams
like a ruin, its fourth wall open
to the crowd and the fluttering timetables.
In the farthest corner, the television
crackles a torch song and a beaded gown.
She is my favorite singer, dead when I was born.
And I have been waiting for hours for a train,
exhausted between connections to small cities,
awake only in my eyes finding shelter
in the fluttering ribbon of shadow
around the dead woman singing on the screen.
Exhaustion is a last line of defense
where time either stops dead or kills you.
It teaches you to see what your eyes see
without questions, without the politics
of living in one city, dying in another.

How badly I would like to sleep now
in the shadows beside real things or beside
things that were real once, like the beaded gown
on the television, like the debut
of a song in New York in black and white
when my parents were there. I feel sometimes
my life was used up before I was born.
My eyes sear backwards into my head
to the makeshift of what I have already seen
or heard described or dreamed about, too weary
not to envy the world its useless outlines.
Books of photographs of New York in the forties.
The dark rhombus of a window of a train
rushing past my train. The dark halo
around the body of a woman I love
from something much farther than a distance.

The world is insatiable. It takes your legs off,
it takes your arms and parades in front of you
such wonderful things, such pictures of warm houses
trellised along the sides with green so deep
it is like black air, only transparent,
of women singing, of trains of lithium
on the awakening body of a landscape
or across the backdrop of an old city
steaming and high-shouldered as the nineteen-forties.
The world exhausts everything except my eyes
because it is a long walk to the world
begun before I was born. In the far corner
the dead woman bows off stage. The television   
crumples into a white dot as the last
train of the evening, my train, is announced.
I lived in one place. I want to die in another.

“The Northeast Corridor,” by Donald Revell from New Dark Ages (Wesleyan University Press, 1990). © 1990 by Donald Revell and reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press,

Source: New Dark Ages (Wesleyan University Press, 1990)


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Poet Donald Revell b. 1954

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

Subjects Growing Old, Time & Brevity, Living, Cities & Urban Life, Social Commentaries, Activities, Travels & Journeys

Poetic Terms Imagery, Free Verse, Persona