Train Yard

So many nights you’ve traced you fingers along the jagged
Lines criss-crossing her arms like a subway map, each scar a train
That she swears is out of service; but you sometimes wonder where they lead,
And what coaxed her underground, left her on that desperate platform to catch
That elusive ride, that escape that never came. Your fingertips constantly
Coast along those abandoned lines, and you close your eyes to picture

Her, in her wanderlust, laying those tracks; in all her old pictures,
You think, she looked so happy, but then you see the the rigid, jagged
Smiles in those frames, the fear in those eyes that stare forever constantly
Into the middle distance, and you think, how amazingly well-trained
We are to ignore the pain of others. In the morning, you rise early, catch
Her unawares as she pursues her daily rituals; put down her coffee cup and lead

Her, hesitant but curious, out the door. The morning sky is the color of lead,
The October air smelling of bonfires and the promise of a storm. This is how you picture
The landscape of her mind: a barren highway, roadside blossoms upturned to catch
The rain, and her, head down, bare feet hopscotching gracefully across the jagged
Cracks in the dusty asphalt. She is a poet, she is a wanderer, she is a woman well-trained
In self-destruction and well aware of how ever vigilant she must be, how constantly

On guard she must be to not lose herself in those cracks. You lead her constantly
But leisurely forward, her eyes flitting along the barren stretch of road until their lead
To their natural focal point; she takes her first fumbling steps when she sees the train –
An antique boxcar – left on the tracks. It’s a relic, it’s a cautionary tale, it’s a picture
From a book of scary stories – “It’s my life,” she says, and her breath catches
As she reaches out to lay a hand on the cool wood, the paint chipping off in jagged

Flakes. You pull her up with you into the cargo hold, wayward splinters tearing jagged
Holes in her tatty jeans. She looks around in perfect recognition of the scene: the constant
Creaking of the floor boards, the ribbons of sunlight flitting through the slats that catch
The silver motes of dust that dance with every footstep. This is the life that she’d lead:
Derailed before disaster, purposeless and empty. She sits by you at the door, the picture
Of youth gone astray, and she pulls up her sleeves. Nothing in your life had ever trained

You for this, but when she starts to cry, you know enough to hold her, the train
Rocking gently in time with the cars on the adjacent highway, and when the jagged
Edge is gone from her sobs, you hold her still. You watch the day fly like a moving picture,
Mid-morning fading to the honey-light of afternoon, and soon to dusk; the only constant
Is her shallow breathing, the silk-smooth scar tissue beneath your fingers that lead,
All and always, to her wrists. Her pulse flutters at your touch like a butterfly before the catch.

She catches your hand and holds tight as the crickets becomes a constant chorus.
You lead her to her feet, down the jagged, broken tracks, a perfect picture of beauty
In the breakdown. The train fades into twilight on the horizon, the way a nightmare fades at dawn.