Union Pacific Transfer Depot, Council Bluffs, Iowa
One day you wake up in a town you can’t name
and there’s no way to plot a path from A to B.
You hear a train, then you don’t, the sound
bounces off the hills, gets trapped in a gulley
or skims a church spire only to scatter
over a silo that dreams of nothing but thunder
and grain. Who says the route is not the shortest distance
between two points, says it’s a branching river
and you must get in your little boat and paddle
down each grassy inlet and tiny stream—as if sets
of unreadable alphabets opening beneath your feet
and clambering over fence posts were a good thing?
I don’t want to come to the edge of myself, don’t
want that sinking towards a bottom that never seems
to come. Sometimes I’m held together with pins
and strings. I’m pieces of fabric, a dress waiting
to be seamed, or I’m the stitches ripped out, threads
blown across the floor. I want to lie on a cool, clean
sheet, feel it drape over my face, arch my back
like a cat, be reduced to nothing but bone,
the big wind that races across the field, bend
the trees back, push clouds, be shadow, whip past
blouses hanging on the line like women waiting
for their lives, all of it silver and into the sun.
Previously published in Tramp (LSU Press, 2018).
Joelle Biele is the author of Tramp and the editor of Elizabeth Bishop and The New Yorker: The Complete Correspondence. A Fulbright professor in Germany and Poland, she is currently the Howard County Poetry and Literature Society’s Writer-in-Residence, doing writing workshops with Maryland high school students.