Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Someone Else's Journey

This poem is part of a project that I am trying to transform. I originally wrote about 60 pages of a novel, set in the 1920's, about a girl who moves to LA from MN to be an actress, just as the talking movies began production. I couldn't sustain the novel, so I figured I would try writing her story in poem form. Enjoy!

Carrying Everything I Own
Train Ride from Minneapolis, MN to Los Angeles, CA
December 1, 1927


Sixteen hours ago, I took my seat
and faced my reflection
in the darkened window. Sixteen
hours and counting of rolling icy plains
and I’m not yet halfway there.

I haven’t slept yet, afraid
of losing my luggage or missing
the moment when frozen yellow grass
shifts to brown rock and the patches
of gray ice become muddy puddles.

I’ve never been further west
than North Dakota, but once I stepped
off the platform and into the train car,
I felt the rhythm of wheels
clacking against steel tracks
seep into my skin.

I’ve always been moving like this,
a faint reflection hovering
over half-lit houses and fenced-in yards,
ramshackle outhouses and neglected
corn fields, children bundled
in bulky black coats, playing outside.

This is the first time
I’ve seen myself so quickly, so clearly:

the empty landscape I’ve always known
flapping past me like a stiff white sheet
left out to dry in the winter wind

and me, smiling as I watch it go. I know
I’ll never miss it, after I arrive.

8 Comments:

Rose Dewy Knickers said...

The journey of being, of leaving the old behind and arriving a completely new person. I like the poem and a novel would be very good.

Rose

xo

gautami tripathy said...

I like the idea. Turning an unfinished novel into poetry. It works.

Jo said...

Lovely as always........my favourite stanza:

I’ve always been moving like this,
a faint reflection hovering
over half-lit houses and fenced-in yards,
ramshackle outhouses and neglected
corn fields, children bundled
in bulky black coats, playing outside.

this is perfect. The poem has captured the rhythm of the train.

tumblewords said...

Your poetry works well. Flow and rhythm allow me to travel with her - will be an interesting story, I know.

Mary Timme said...

Wow! Having lived in the west and midwest most of my life, I loved the imagery of the frozen land and sheet whipping in the wind so much. You've caught the uniqueness of the plains in your poem. Nice.

Steve said...

Poetry that lives, excellent!

Jessica said...

Thank you for all of your comments!

I especially appreciate the encouragement to start this semi-daunting project (thanks rose & gautami), because it's scary!

I'm off to read more Writers Island!

kimberley said...

I think you have done a fine job of capturing the experience of traveling by train as well as the woman's experience of leaving behind an old life in hopes of a new one.

This line:

"a faint reflection hovering
over half-lit houses and fenced-in yards" - just perfect