On the Rails

It was on the faster train

on Tuesday, in the middle of the morning,

when I should have been working,

that two men began to talk to each other,

really talk to each other,

both turned three-quarters outwards

to me, propped across the aisle,

behind a magazine.

One began to speak,

and then the other spoke in turn,

and it came out

that the older one

had been on the news, earlier that day.

I looked at him carefully,

and I remembered I had seen him, now, today,

that, in fact, he was part of the reason

I was on the train now, rather than earlier,

part of the reason

I was so very late.

The man who was not on the news began

to espouse his view on the vote

and the scattering and the burst,

and the man who had been on the news

listened, smiling and nodding,

every now and then expressing an insight.

The man not-of-the-news would rub the back of one hand

with the palm of the other, nervously.

My eye was drawn to the motion,

48 〈 jubilat

and I began to stare.

One rub, and then another,

as if one hand

were trying to make the other disappear,

as if the man who did not know the news

might want to vanish

at any moment.

And I continued to watch.

And I could see that the news man

was watching as well,

taken by this,

resting his mind.

And then he began to rub his hands as well,

either in sympathy or of an independent spirit

diving for itself

in the middle of the morning,

where I, mouth opened just a little,

had arrived at my stop.

The train pulled, and then paused.

I rose

above them

in the space

of the car.