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Trip Taken by Rail, a poem by Virginia Thomas








Trip Taken by Rail

There were too many trains this summer 

so I didn’t get much sleep. They came rattling

through my teeth and dreams. They came

singing like mechanical whales in the distance

and I stopped for the flashing red lights and pressed

my hands against the gate arm and pressed

my face into the air they dragged with them. I danced

and danced to the ding-ding-ding. I put my ear to the rail 

and watched death rocket toward me, its huge hungry mouth

black and toothless. I bought tickets and swallowed 

my own flaking skin to hide my trail. I wore a hat to stop 

the wind-tangles from falling out of my hair. I lived off

stored body fat and memories of my mother 

who died. Her hands, always so soft. I chewed the corners off

my tickets and pasted them all in my notebook so I

would never ever forget that there was a time 

when I went rambling off implacably the way

a train never goes backward except 

sometimes when it does, creeping back

and never the same when it returns

and now I listen in my sleep for trains. I shake

side-to-side on my railing, grip the headboard, climb 

the stair, wail just to hear my voice above the whistle,

just to remind myself I’m there.

Virginia Thomas holds an MFA in Poetry from Indiana University in Bloomington, where she still lives, writes, and occasionally teaches writing. She is currently seeking a publisher for her full collection of poems about grief, social strictures, werewolves, and the perceived monstrosity of teen girl bodies. Her work has appeared in [PANK], Hobart, and some other journals.