Archive for freedom

Train Hopping

Posted in Prose with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 6, 2010 by 1writegirl

Glory days
They’ll pass you by, glory days
In the wink of a young girl’s eye, glory days
.
–– Bruce Springsteen

When I was a young girl and my life was full of fresh ripe choices every which way I turned, I found myself almost incapable of staying anywhere for long. The year I graduated from college and moved to L.A. to take a job with a major airline, I moved seven times, from one end of the state to the other and back before flinging myself 3,000 miles away to see what other possibilities might await. Such is the glory of youth, the unwavering and compelling faith that each move you make in a new direction will be a better move than the one you made before; the perception that there are no wrong or bad choices, only adventures of one sort or another.

I traveled exclusively by car in those days for my domestic transitions, and got on a bus or an airplane only every now and then to visit my family. Traveling to Europe, though I would have loved to book a passage on the QE2 had my circumstances allowed, was undertaken necessarily by plane. I wonder now that it didn’t occur to me to find a wealthy old dowager who was preparing to cross the Atlantic in need of a companion, or a couple with children in search of a nanny.

Like most Americans of my generation, I’d seen movies about trains, read books about trains, and learned about the importance of rail travel during American westward expansion in History class at school. Trains, in my mind, were associated with romance, the wild west, old money, mystique, and of course, a criminal element. But rail travel, at least while I was growing up, was either too spotty or too expensive or both to make it a viable form of transportation for trips of any length. So it was while I was in Europe, tenderly and enthusiastically just turned eighteen, that I rode my first train; where it was and still is the preferred method of transportation because it is efficient, cost-effective and highly accessible. I remember zooming southward out of Paris on the TGV, the first of many train trips I would make over the next two months within and between countries, and wondering what lurid and mysterious situations I might encounter. You can’t read Murder on the Orient Express or watch Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a Train” under the age of twenty and expect your first excursion on a train to be anything less than a potentially sinister affair. Mine, as it turns out, was more sordid than sinister. I was cornered in an otherwise empty car while traveling at 180 mph or so through a tunnel by a probably-drunk Frenchman in a business suit who simultaneously clapped a hand over my mouth and attempted to force his way under my skirt. I managed to free myself with a good bit of elbow thrusting and one or two well-aimed or just lucky kicks, and hurtled myself out of the compartment, down the passageway and into the dining car where I remained, skittish and hyper-alert, for the duration of the journey.

Undeterred, I continued to think of train travel as a desirous form of transportation, and still do. I have, since then, ridden on several trains both outside of and within the United States, and while nothing that I’d consider romantic has ever happened to me on one, I don’t discount the possibility that it might. Being both a writer and a nomad, my thoughts of trains tend to gravitate toward a previous era when the haves with lavish jewels and expensive champagne were onboard, in ordained and oblivious comfort, the well-lit and posh trains with sleeper cars and first class; while the have-nots were onboard without sound, without fanfare, under cover of darkness and without permission, the dirty half-empty freight, cattle cars, and cargo trains. I wish that I could say, as an old woman telling stories of her glory days to her grandchildren, that I had been both passengers, on both kinds of trains; that I’d been on both sides of the coin, the head and the tail, the heiress and the tramp, depending on the year, the circumstances, the companion.

These days I live in a town with regular train service daily, both passenger and freight, to points north and south, the Amtrak station sitting several blocks from my house on the southern edge of old downtown. When the whistle blows at night, I’ll sometimes hear Arlo Guthrie in the breezy aftermath, or picture the look on Gary Cooper’s face in “High Noon” as he anticipated the arrival of death. The high school which my son attends, the only one in town, is just across the tracks.

Last Saturday was the first football game of the season, and his first ever. He’s a wide receiver — though there is nothing remotely wide about his reedy, sinewy frame. I say this with a wry grin and the chosen ignorance of someone who knows as little about the game as it’s possible to know. I envisioned him snapping like a twig under the weight of a full-on tackle and forced my thoughts elsewhere as my beloved and I ambled over to the stadium on foot, confronted when we got to the tracks and our usual shortcut by a passing train, with old rusted near-empty cars that had ladders running from top to bottom of each. It slowed as we stood there, and for a few moments we watched it silently, each of us lost in our own thoughts. We looked up and down the tracks but it was a long train and we couldn’t see the end of it in either direction, and as it grinded to a halt, he turned to me. “Want to hop the train?” he said, grinning. I looked up and pictured myself scrambling up the ladder of the closest car, scooting across the top, lying low and out of sight to the other side, then shimmying down the opposite ladder. Or would we stay on top of the car, our bodies pressed hard and flat into the warm metal surface until the train passed out of this town and into another, then jump off before it came to a halt? “Yeah,” I said, smiling back at him. “I do,” wondering as I said it what I would do if it was the latter idea he had in mind. After all, he is a nomad, too. But it was neither. He jumped up on the iron bars between the two closest cars, treading carefully along the metal yoke toward the inside till he got to the halfway point, and turned to face me. He braced himself, then held out a hand in my direction. I took it, he pulled me up, and I followed him across to the other side. He jumped down and turned around, putting his broad hands around my waist. As he lifted me gently to the ground I closed my eyes and saw the coin again, saw myself in cashmere coat and black hat, black silk gloves to the elbow and cuban stockings with a seam down the back, cigarette holder in one hand, a  martini in the other; flipped it over and saw the furtive chase, the raggedy, tattered clothes and duffel bag, the hands-out climb aboard, the musty darkness, the squeaky breaks a wake-up call, the need for imminent, albeit stealthy departure.

As we walked away from the tracks and toward the football field, I glanced back at the train, now moving again, slowly but gaining momentum. My glory days are behind me, I thought to myself. And yet if circumstances were different, I might have truly and literally hopped that train.

Someday, I still might.

Dogs with Mohawks

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 20, 2010 by 1writegirl

My love and I
With nothing better to do
One rainy winter day
Took a look at my shaggy canine
And decided he needed a trim

We started slow
With a pair of shears
Behind the ears
Under the chin

And as we trimmed
We talked as always
About whatever came to mind

And the conversation turned
To the subject of what we’d imagined,
In the glory of dewy youth,
Our lives would look like today

I thought I’d be married, I said
As I swiped at Mugsy’s tail
Be grateful you didn’t go there
He grimaced
Believe me, it’s misery ad infinitum
Compounded by devastation

I should be teaching poetry,
He mused
At some prestigious, west coast college
Off came the left side of Mugsy’s beard

With co-eds hanging on my every word
Gone was his moustache too

I expected to be a famous writer
I exclaimed with an air of whimsy
As the clippers zoomed over Mugsy’s back
And flew up under his stomach
With at least one bestseller, I added
He nodded, I know, huh? he said
Then shaking his head in a daze of wonder
Started in with the scissors in earnest

I’d have a mansion by the sea
He explained with a faraway look
With servants to do my bidding
And an agent, an editor,
Stupendous advances

Fur was flying in all directions
Frenetic buzzing filled the air

And so it went for quite some time
With every word, another cut
For every lost dream
Another lock shorn
Until at last we were out of shouldve’s
And before us quaking in forlorn regret
Stood the product of our mutual despair

There was nothing left of him to speak of
He was half the size he’d started
And the only hair remaining
Was a strip from head to toe
A Mohawk of black and white
From his forehead straight up and spiking
Down his back to the tip of his tail

We put down the scissors, dropped the shears
And swept up the pile of fur
Thinking perhaps we’d made a mistake
Gotten too carried away
Until Mugsy stood up and shook himself
Then pranced up and down the room

Showing off his brand new do

Unencumbered, with nothing to block his view
Of cats and cars, food and chew-toys
And laps to settle into

I think he likes it, I gasped in amazement
He seems to feel freer, he agreed
Go figure, we said in unison
Then sighed and settled back down
To the one thing we both can’t not do for long

The process of writing our hearts out
To the tune of the pouring rain

I dig my new Do!

One Winter’s Night

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 28, 2009 by 1writegirl

One of these nights
When words are
Too heavy
When the darkness is
Too cold

Lay me down
Beside you
Flesh against flesh
Warm and tender
Under llamas wool

Let our dreams
Come and go
Like fingertips

Grazing temples
And souls

In the midst of breath
Between us

Loose
Unbound
And
Gentle

For the duration of
One winter’s night

One blue moon
One light in the shadows

From spellbound dusk
Till breaking dawn

Find reprieve
With me
In the silence

Of night

In the act
Of silent

Communion

The Test

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 11, 2009 by 1writegirl

On this test

My answers to
The questions
Pass back and forth
Telepathically

No pencils, templates
Or cramming involved

It’s a Life Test
That has to do
With things

Like knowing when
To reach out
Your hand
And when to
Hold it back

And wait to be
Reached for

Accepting with
The gut
What the mind
Already knows

That genuine caring
For someone
Isn’t about

Restrictions
Belonging
Persuading

But rather about
Freedom

Of expression
Of movement
Of self

Trusting they know
You are there
For
Them

Whether or not
You are there
With
Them

Throwing aside all
Preconceived notions
And worn out
Ill-fitting
Attitudes

Offering up
Instead

The most
Valuable
Gift
You can
Give

The acknowledgement
That their truth is

Just as real

Every bit
As justified

Equally
As driving

As
Your own

One By One

Posted in Meanderings, Poetry with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 26, 2009 by 1writegirl

One by one
I pull them out
Write them down

Dissect them

My fears that keep me
Prisoner

Some petty
Some deep seeded
Some uglier than others

Some caked in blood
Forty years old

Some small
I fear I’ll get a cavity
And not have the money
To fill it

Closest to the surface
Easiest to find

Some large
Not wanting
To see the light of day

I fear I’m not worth loving
If the one I want
Doesn’t want me

All of them need
Recognition

It’s slow
Tedious
Painful
Exhausting

They resist
They come out
Kicking and screaming
Comfortable
In their darkness
In my denial

They rejoice
In quietly
Consuming me
Like disease in a
Passive host

But I dig them out
One by one
And let them crawl
All over me
Call them by name
So I can see them
For what they really are
From whence they came

My only chance
At dissolution

My only chance
To find my
Peace
Within
Rather than without

To release them of
Their power over me
And set them free
Free to go

One by one

Renewal

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 2, 2009 by 1writegirl

Two bodies

Warm
Familiar
Longing

Facing

Close
Side by side

Skin
Mouths
Fingers

Sliding
Caressing
Probing
Stroking

Engaged in the
Offering

Relief
Pleasure
Release

Reassurance
Without words

While that voice
Deep inside
Gives permission

Let go
Lose control
You’re safe here

So that at last
Explosion
Burst after burst

Many
Little deaths
Followed by

One
Rebirth

The Prism

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 26, 2009 by 1writegirl

Why do you stay with me?
He asked
In a voice wracked with pain

You know why
She replied
Though she could have asked
That question herself
In the seductive shadow of sleep

She sometimes wonders
Why she stays
When he rarely seeks her out
And needs her even less

When he won’t let her cross
The threshold
To that place free of
Have-to’s and fears

But between the lines
Behind three little words
Is the answer to his question

The truth lies there, a prism
In colors of intricate depth

She stays

Because to be close to him
In any way he’ll let her
Brings her moments of

Simple, perfect peace
In a life of chaos and strife

Because he’s teaching her
What it means
To accept someone

Completely

For everything they are
And everything they are not

Because he won’t lie to her

Because she can make him laugh

Because it’s okay in his presence
To say not a single

Word

Because she’s learning how
To trust
After having been betrayed

Because he tells her
She is one
Of only three people on earth
He can speak to
From brain to mouth

Which gives her courage
To reciprocate
To confide any thoughts she has

Even ones he might wish
She didn’t

Because in his arms
She understands freedom
And can’t imagine
Another man’s kiss

Because he’s hard
Rough
Gentle
Sweet
Bitter
Angry
Loveable
Tormented
Brilliant
Weak
Hopeless
Loving
Strong
Insecure
Hopeful
Imbalanced
Honest
Broken
Real

He makes her crazy
Yet he touches her
In places she needs to be touched
Where no one else can reach

Because with him
She’s a better person
Than she could ever be
Without

Because he’s
Her best friend
And one of these days
He might look at her

And see that she is his

And then
She won’t need to ask him

Why do you stay with me?

Haiku #27: Visions

Posted in Prose with tags , , , , , , , on September 17, 2009 by 1writegirl

To be free of needs
To pursue only passion
What Life might be like…

Paraíso

Posted in Prose with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 18, 2009 by 1writegirl

She tells me there is a sea
Of the deepest, blazing azul
Where kisses speak corazón

And the Spanish is never broken

Where there’s never a thought about money
And the food falls from the trees
Where there is no tobacco
Or booze, or drugs

Nothing to alter the mind
But that which is born from within

Where you sleep in the warmth of the sand
Beneath stars that grant every wish
Cradled in a veil of moonlight
And a lover’s tender embrace