By Fred D'Aguiar Fred D'Aguiar
Long before you see train   
The tracks sing and tremble,   
Long before you know direction   
Train come from, a hum   
Announces it soon arrive.   
So we tend to drop on all fours   
Even before we look left or right.   
We skip the sleepers or walk   
Along by balancing on a rail.   
We talk about the capital   
Where the train ends its run   
From the interior stacked with   
The outsized trunks of felled   
Trees and open-topped cars of bauxite.   
We always hide from it unsure   
What the train will do if we   
Stand next to the tracks.   
It flattens our nails into knives,   
It obliterates any traffic   
Caught by it at crossroads,   
It whistles a battle cry,   
Steam from the engine a mood   
Not to mess with or else.   
Rails without beginning or end,   
Twinned hopes always at your back,   
Always up front signaling you on,   
Double oxen, hoof stomp, temper   
Tantrum, stampede, clatter   
Matter, head splitter, hear us,   
Stooped with an ear to the line—   
greenheart, mora, baromalli,   
purple heart, crabwood,   
kabakalli, womara.

Source: Poetry (December 2008).


This poem originally appeared in the December 2008 issue of Poetry magazine

December 2008


Fred D'Aguiar is a poet, novelist, playwright, born in London of Guyanese parents and raised in Guyana. He teaches in the MFA and African Studies programs at Virginia Tech. His sixth poetry collection is Continental Shelf (2011).

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Poems by Fred D'Aguiar

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Activities, Travels & Journeys, Social Commentaries

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