We’re headed for empty-headedness,
the featureless amnesias of Idaho, Nebraska, Nevada,
states rich only in vowel sounds and alliteration.
We’re taking the train so we can see into the heart
of the heart of America framed in the windows’ cool
oblongs of light. We want cottages, farmhouses
with peaked roofs leashed by wood smoke to the clouds;
we want the golden broth of sunlight ladled over
ponds and meadows. We’ve never seen a meadow.
Now, we want to wade into one—up to our chins in the grassy
welter—the long reach of our vision grabbing up great
handfuls and armloads of scenery at the clouds’
white sale, at the bargain basement giveaway
of clods and scat and cow pies. We want to feel half
of America to the left of us and half to the right, ourselves
like a spine dividing the book in two, ourselves holding
the whole great story together.
Then, suddenly, the train pulls into the station,
and the scenery begins to creep forward—the ramshackle shapes
of Main Street, a Chevy dozing at a ribbon of curb, and here is a hound
and a trolley, the street lights on their long stems, here is the little park
and the park stuff: bum on a bench, deciduous trees, a woman upholstered
in a red dress, the bus out of town sunk to its chromium bumper in shadows.
The noise of a train gathers momentum and disappears into the distance,
and there is a name strolling across the landscape in the crisply voluminous
script of the title page, as though it were a signature on the contract, as though
it were the author of this story.