01-16-2019

 

Jay Meek

 

Trains in Winter  

 

Over first coffee, I ride the diner and look out at snow fallen deep in gorges.  At winter stations, a locomotive can freeze to the rails, and a mountain night turn so cold it makes the rails snap.  Some trains in heavy snow overtake a moose herd along a roadbed, then sweep a few cows into a ravine, or maybe a bull crossing a trestle will go on through, catching his legs between the ties.  I've seen icebergs melting in a Newfoundland cove, their fresh water icing to a clear glaze.  I've heard of sister ships passing at sea, on their last crossing, while on deck a few passengers wave.  Tapestries in smoking rooms, shipboard mysteries.  There is so much tonnage to our lives, as if civility required an enormous effort, if only for a little sweetness, a little wine.

 

Hope's the pure country I was born to, where trains run on schedule in their periodic and beneficent sadness.  I want to forget the casual insults that often pass for humor, and imagine the letters lovers might write, or the letters friends send every winter as their sentences cross the distance of the page.  Their words are like a train arriving in Los Angeles while another train approaches the desert, and still another leaves the Chicago yards.  Tonight I want to lie in my bed and listen to trains moving across America toward a place still humanly possible, desirable if difficult, a day's journey away.

 

-from Trains in Winter

BIO: Jay Meek was an American poet, and director of the Creative Writing program at the University of North Dakota. He was the poetry editor of the North Dakota Quarterly for many years. He graduated from University of Michigan in 1959, from Syracuse University with a master's degree in creative writing in 1963. He published seven collections of poetry and a novel before passing away in 2007.