Trains: The Memorial
(for Michele & Sarrah)
I am going home on Sunday,
to what is now called “Little Portugal,”
but it will always be
Down Neck to me.
Nicknamed for the way the Passaic curves to form
the shape of a neck: My town,
I am going home to Newark’s Penn Station, crowded with people, and their bags,
and their tired crying babies, their annoyances, excitement, impatience,
boredom, and the loud inaudible announcements, as arrival and departure
times shuffle and spin on the boards above.
I am at your house, now.
The tide brings sounds of
water splashing against rocks.
There is peace here,
not like the station.
I think of balancing on
train tracks, of jumping over third rails.
There is a freedom in being twelve
and walking tracks.
Even in hunting season, at my grandmother’s house
down South, with shots going off in the background,
there was no fear.
Life belonged to me.
The tracks held secrets of
places I might go,
of people strange and wonderful:
My own yellow brick road.
So many times I walked those tracks unconcerned
about oncoming trains,
or third rails,
or the way that trains always seem so far away.
It’s an optical illusion, you know.
Not like playing chicken,
when Michele stayed on too long
and then froze,
just stopped and froze and stared right at the train.
It wasn’t playing chicken.
And we all screamed so loud for her to “jump,
jump now” that our throats hurt the next day.
And everything seemed a dream, the ambulance,
the police, the questions, words
At that moment my youth slipped out of me
and I was old,
twelve and old.
Tired, without vision.
Tired, without substance.
There is rhythm in trains,
I have triumphs.
I have made it to 46. That is my accomplishment.
Michele remains twelve.
Forty-six hangs sadly in my closet with my other minor
feats that are all wrong, and belong to last season.
Breathing, thinking, existing:
these belong to me.
Words pile up outside
We miss her.
It was meant to happen.
God wanted her.
She’s in a better place.
did it happen to her because
she was the last in line?
What if she were first? Leading and not following?
If she were slower, or faster?
Or lighter, or heavier?
Or she woke up earlier and didn’t
miss her appointment?
Perhaps, if she were only a bit more
Deborah LaVeglia lives in Cranford, NJ. She is director of PoetsWednesday, the longest-running poetry series in New Jersey (founded by Edie Eustice in 1978). Deborah has been published in Negative Capability, Paterson Literary Review, Lips, Big Hammer, Arbella, and Edison Literary Review. She loves doing workshops in the schools, and has featured in many readings throughout NJ, NY & PA.