"I have spent much of my life in train stations. When I was 4 my Russian grandmother took me on the New York City subway for the first time and I was delighted to be riding on a “toodles” train that I’d heard tell of in a children’s book. Later I took trains to Connecticut, Long Island, Massachusetts and yes, East Berlin, as well as through the entirety of Switzerland. I took trains every other weekend one summer to Washington DC to visit my new boyfriend Larry, and then when I finally got a job in academics, I commuted by train to the university, using the Long Island Railroad and then Amtrak. When I moved to Los Angeles, the metrolink to Riverside became the mobile office where I wrote my first novel, composed endless poems, and sometimes had encounters like the one that is in the poem included here. I have come to feel oddly at home at those spots near the track where I might find a seat and where I can pause for a moment in the eye of the transit storm. From that position I more or less impatiently scan schedules and traffic lights, awaiting the arrival of the train car with its whine and roar. I love it when the train comes in and the poignant strangers descend while I wait for my chance to board and rumble with that big machine forward. Towards something that feels like freedom, yeah, I know that’s sentimental, but seriously that sudden jerk when that giant mechanism shudders into motion feels almost always like it's promising some kind of luscious future."
Stephanie Barbé Hammer is a 5-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. She has published work in The Bellevue Literary Review, Pearl, the James Franco Review, and the Hayden’s Ferry Review among other places. She is the author of the prose poem chapbook Sex with Buildings (Dancing Girl Press), a full-length collection, How Formal? (Spout Hill Press), and a novel, The Puppet Turners of Narrow Interior (Urban Farmhouse Press). A former New Yorker, Stephanie now lives in Coupeville WA with interfaith blogger/author Larry Behrendt. She is currently working on a poetry collection about a relentless urbanite navigating a rural habitat, and a novel about 2 mixed up women on a train to Montreal. A poem by her appears below.
going to the metrolink/june 9th
it's dark as hell at
5 am, and it's a sharp cold which is confusing
because this is Los Angeles.
i stagger up,
i try to drink some coffee.
i know it will be hot later when the sun
rises so i pile jacket on top of sweater
on top of sweater on top of sleeveless shirt.
i put bags in the cold car. i put my coffee in the cold car.
i drive to the train station with
the seat warmer on though my husband
hassles me about this choice when he
hears about it later. i go stand on the platform and it's
cold there too, but the guy who
is an actor who teaches where i teach
the gestures of everyone waiting for the train.
he shines hot sun energy despite the darkness
while i shiver at him wondering where that power
comes from when all i can do is remember -- regret –
that i left my coffee when i parked the car.
i wish i could sip and consider the actor
because he's really good and i know already –
though it will take years -- that I will write about him
and this unseasonable moment.