Ruth Foley


for Robert Pinsky

This one is not. This
is the train that takes
the opposite tack

of rush hour, slices
tracks like bananas
for a sundae, like

a poem for my own
ears. This train, the one
I ride with a man

not my husband
(what would Freud think of
that?), this train whistles
me to you. Express.

Of course it is -- if
it's Freud's train, or one
like it. What did Freud

know of explosive
consonants, vaguely
adenoidal New

Jersey accents? Poems
like wine or something
stronger, lecture hall

pregnant with students
and their cramped notebooks.
No one writes -- they need

to hear you sing of
temporary pink
pianos, what your

rain is. Connected
rooms, flash of passing
street lights, traffic stopped

at crossings while we
plow through, blaring, trust
no one is playing

chicken with this train
that is just a train.
As a poet
is just a poet.


Twenty years, Elena, and I am
older now than you were when
you died. So little to remember --

swearing over one unshaved calf
in July, convulsing in McDonald's
to give the girls flirting with my brother

something to look at. Face raised
to God in laughter, Eskimo-hooded
wedding gown, seventeen shades

of purple nail polish soldier-lined
across the window sill. The Catcher
in the Rye. Lennon shot dead

on your birthday. Days later --
twenty-five, divorcing, and dead.
Your daughter's memory of you fading into

the nursery walls. Elena, could you fly?
For years I willed you alive,
missing, amnesiac, running with

your married lover. Willed away
sheeted ice, oncoming traffic, the nameless
man who had to live with killing you

when a tree or telephone pole
would have done the job as easily.
This morning, with the dogs asleep

and the neighbors at work, I listened
to the sound of static in my ears that is
the sound of nothing, the sound

of people dead so long their voices
die in memory, the sound of water
freezing thin on black flat macadam.


It will be cold. Spring
is short here, this one
more so. A lot of rain.

That never helps,
nor does the spring
near the center there,

where the surface moves
in long gelatinous rolls.
Goose scat has collected

on the raft again. We'll row
out later with a brush,
dish liquid, the purple plastic bucket.

Last year, heated drought --
lake weed retreated
past the raft, pumpkinseeds

nested further and further
from shore, clams unclamped
in the sand. No weed this year.

Tonight we'll take the Glastron
out, wheel held hard
to port while we look up,

set our stars to lazy spinning.
For now, it is enough
to dive, blow bubbles

from my mouth, pitch onto
the pier, drink coffee gasping
steam, fish out of water.


Ruth Foley's poetry has appeared in several journals, including "Rio," "The Comstock Review," "Zuzu's Petals Quarterly," and "Cider Press Review." It has also been translated into Japanese for theHappa-no Kofu web anthology. She is co-editor for the new online journal "The Lightning Bell."


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