Upstate

An open ladder of tracks
fades into eventual sky.
Any other place the sky is just a sky
here it is always a horizon
beyond gray waters, gray eyes,
a soft dripping sound of more,
the drip of a faucet.

Our hands touch like petals of skin on skin
We lift them up on strings together,
lift our feet over hurdles of iron
while small change jingles between us.

Cool air’s lips, the sun light and cold.
Beside the tracks an abandoned white bucket
oozes rain.
I’m too afraid to look
at what’s someone’s dumped inside.
The truth is
we can’t ever end up here –
Upstate
– as if down or over makes any difference –
it’s the heavy state at all.
IBM’s skeleton looms as a black kite,
streets laid like the legs of a woman full of runs to the bone.
What’s laid is laid and easy to follow
Deer follow.
Hunters follow the tracks.
I don’t want either.

The whistle unravels,
the train a slate heavy moan moving slow upon us
like a day next year on the calendar.
Our bodies perch in the rocks
like small wooden birds he’s carved. God has a funny way
of playing with toys.
Only when his machine is close enough do we move closer
in defiance.

“Can you imagine being under the wheels,” you say
and then something about Russian children dying
that I don’t catch.

The air pulses up
lifting my skirt skin
hum and vibration
a gallop of steam
a pump and a pump and a pump in me
as if I could chisel a wing free.

“I love you,” you say to me,
“Because the things that mean something to you
mean something to me.”

We watch, still holding hands, the moan pass,
the last touch of a fingertip.
We came and he went,
the clouds rolling low in the Eastern sky
as if we’re under the wheels anyway.

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4 Responses to Upstate

  1. Rachel, what a long, lovely poem full of surprises “hands touch like petals of skin on skin’ Oh, I like that entire stanza ‘while small change jingles between us.’ Then ‘streets laid like the legs of a woman full of runs to the bone.’ And ‘The whistle unravels,/the train a slate heavy moan moving slow upon us/like a day next year on the calendar”. Terrific, Rebecca, every single line.

    And “The air pulses up/lifting my skirt skin/hum and vibration/
    a gallop of steam/a pump and a pump and a pump in me/as if I could chisel a wing free.” Rebecca, my dear, I hear the short lines like puffs of indrawn breath, an anxious panting in anticipation and then the astonishing ‘as if I could chisel a wing free.” Now, that’s a line to die for!

    Really fine work, Rebecca. I hope you are pleased.

    • rachvb says:

      I’m so glad you liked it! I am pleased with this one – struggle always seems to end well with writing. This one had been cooking for quite some time – it’s nice to have it beautifully born. I rode the high for a few days and now it is back to work. =)

      It’s hard being an “R” poet! I think you calling me Rebecca is more of a compliment to me than Rebecca. =)
      Thank you for the kind words and for making my poem come alive in another heart. That means a great deal to me.
      I hope you are well!
      xo

  2. Dear Rachel

    I am so pleased you are sharing your poems with us here. . . One day perhaps you will allow me to host one for our Tuesday Poem series? (No pressure – there are many Tuesdays ahead of us ; ).

    If I had to pick a handful of favourite lines, these would be –

    “. . . Our bodies perch in the rocks
    like small wooden birds he’s carved. God has a funny way. . .”

    and

    “. . . a gallop of steam
    a pump and a pump and a pump in me
    as if I could chisel a wing free. . . ”

    When you read them, together as one free verse, they stand alone as a poem within your original poem.

    (May I?)

    Our bodies perch in the rocks
    like small wooden birds he’s carved.
    God has a funny way. A gallop of steam
    and a pump and a pump in me as if
    I could chisel a wing free.

    Bravo, Rachel.
    Love, Claire xo

    • rachvb says:

      I very much like your version as well – perhaps the poem wouldn’t have taken me so long to unravel 😉
      I would be honored to be a Tuesday poem! Thank you, Claire. Whenever it strikes you, I am always here.
      I like thinking there are poems within poems – it gives our work so much more depth, does it not?
      Thank you.
      I’m glad to see you here.
      xo
      Rachel

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