April is National Poetry Month, and to mark the occasion we'll be sharing some of our favourite poems from collections we've published over the years. Today's poem is "All the Train Trips" by Brian Bartlett from the collection The Watchmaker’s Table.
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"All the Train Trips"
by Brian Bartlett
All the train trips I made in those years, alone,
along one province-to-province, through-the-night
route: the swaying, the braking, the shunting,
snacks in the knapsack, beers in the bar car
where strangers gathered like survivors —
houses burned down, families lost. In no time
some called each other “Friend,” “Pal,”
“Funny bastard.” The coach seats never went
back far enough for me to sleep, so after
the hobnobbers’ car closed at the border
and we were rumbling through another country
I read while midnight faded like some town
sped through, unnoticed in the murk and blur.
I’ll always read Lorca’s poems in the light
of one winter night when the world outside
was all snow — and overlap Aksakov’s memoirs
with one summer night when heat and body heat grew
until the coach was a kitchen with three dozen stoves.
I’ve forgotten the names of villages and towns
I knew only as crows know nests they fly over
on their way somewhere else. Black’s Point,
maybe, or Hackmatack Corner,
Moose Junction. Some day will I recall nothing
but how far in the dark I was? —
sleeplessness, the broken breath of strangers,
my face after midnight, haggard and vague,
reflected against anonymous woods.