Train Ride/ NaPoWriMo Day2

ImageI have had a rather full and stressful day today, I’m afraid, so you must try to understand (and not judge too harshly) if my attempt at poetry for the day has come out slightly…flavourless, in spite of my best efforts. 😦

The NaPoWriMo prompt for today was to write “a poem that tells a lie”, but since I believe it is virtually impossible for poems to lie I couldn’t stick to the challenge this time round. Instead, I have written what is – I believe – a quasi-surrealist piece that talks about wanderlust and probably tells quite a lot about my own mental disorders (which I’m sure abound). 🙂

Train Ride

Have you ever ridden a train?
No, not a dead one whose iron belly
Scratches the earth, mimicking
Speed in its gritty negotiation
Of shifting spaces and barely credible
Change. No, and again no, I don’t
Mean the kind that wails after
Each departing passenger in amnesiac
Monotone. No, I was really asking if
You ever caught a living train,
That quicksilver beast that stops
For no one, that circles galaxies
So fast that swiftness itself becomes
Incongruous, meaningless, obsolete.
Have you ever, yes, have you ever
Captured it with your mind,
Clung to its mane with your teeth,
Felt its hypertensive, buzzing heart
Between your thighs, regardless that
This godless, inhuman being might
Throw you off its back or crush
You against its stellar haunches.
Have you ever seen its vast, immutable
Eye that cares for nothing but
The exhilaration of a chase which
Needs no explanation? Have you
Ever pressed the expectant logic
Of your faint, flickering life
Against its cold, dark scales,
Asking for nothing, receiving less?

And finally, as a bonus for putting up with my nonsense, here’s a photo of Stuart Henson’s poem Faceless, featured in the latest (to date) issue of the TLS:


4 Replies to “Train Ride/ NaPoWriMo Day2”

  1. Why is it “virtually impossible” for poems to lie? Can the poet lie and the poem be sincere? Or would the poet’s (in)sincerity be unconnected to the (in)sincerity of the poem? Why? When? Wherefore and how?
    ps love the poem

    1. There are very many reasons why I don’t believe it can be said – about any given poem – that it ‘lies’. But I’ll only give the main one here: because in my ideal world poems use figures of speech as their primary material. And figures of speech are often constructed in such ways that, taken literally, they would appear to be lies or absurdities (see, for instance, oxymorons), but they are, in fact, not, since on a figurative/symbolical level they indicate an idea that cannot otherwise be described (at least not as expressively). So that’s the essence of my ‘why’, ‘when’ and ‘how’, even though much can, of course, be added.

      P.S. I’m glad you do! (Unless you like it because you think it’s ‘nicely phrased nonsense’. /:) )

      1. Not at all, I saw quite a lot of sense in it. This little masterpiece, in turn, might be taken as nonsense, and also as lying:

        The King of France did feel a sense of spleen
        Throughout the spring 2013.

        You might argue that this isn’t “poetry”, but you’d need to make reference to evaluative criteria: formally this is a iambic pentameter couplet, hence (arguably) a poem. Now, this poem refers to a non-existent personage in the given time frame; does the poem therefore lie? You say that its tropes have a “non-literal” truth to them; but can we really _assume_ the existence of this nonliteral truth?

      2. Leaving discussion as to the quality of the poem aside – can we really _not_ assume the existence of this non-literal truth? On what grounds? I, myself, prefer to think there is a non-literal truth. An ‘invented’ character or situation, also, although it may strongly contrast with and deviate from ‘real circumstances’, may still be quite real in the writer’s head and/or in the alternate reality proposed by the writer. Also, ‘alternate realities’ themselves always have ‘real circumstances’ as their starting point.

        This discussion can go on and on forever, I suppose… As with God, the ‘truth’ in poetry is something that you either take for granted or reject completely. 🙂

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