I will never shake the number 3,
forever my place in the line-up.
Moments of stochastic resonance.
There I would sit
on a long wooden bench
and write lines to calm nerves
and crack open scenes of other
stations in or between other cities,
towns, junctions, tiniest of hamlets.
Strangers would talk to travel companions,
most stare at their phones these days,
the rare person reading a book
with real covers and pages inside.
Arrivals and departures
get announced over a PA system.
Of all the depots I have passed by,
all the ones I waited in,
working to believe
my life was about to take off
down its true tracks—
I narrow down the list to these three:
The old San Diego Santa Fe Depot
where I waited for the Pacific Surfliner
to carry me along,
to hug the coast,
destination LA for the first
(and only) time (so far).
A union station where Amtrak,
North County Transit District,
and the San Diego Trolley converge
and diverge. Historic Mission Revival,
redwood beam ceilings, walls covered
in the warmest colored ceramic tiling.
I could write a thousand poems
about my beloved Grand Central
and never scratch the surface
of its celestial music and theater
of crowd and architecture
in perfect choreography.
Instead, I return to the tunnels
beneath New Haven’s Union Station
where I would run
on Friday afternoons
to catch the next Metro-North train
heading to Grand Central.
After I moved to New Haven
to take a break from NYC,
all I wanted was to escape back
to the City every weekend.
Why don’t I have a better memory
of Cass Gilbert’s grand chandeliered interior?
How can I forget Red Wing Station,
just south of the Mississippi,
the first stop after the Twin Cities
on the Empire Builder?
I waited outside
well into a warm summer night
for the perpetually late train
as bats flew overhead and a young man
turned the track into a balance beam.
He knew something.
I know it now.
Not a third rail in sight.