Wednesday, August 23, 2023

"Station" by Ishion Hutchinson


The train station is a cemetery.
Drunk with spirits, a man enters. I fan gnats
from my eyes to see into his face. “Father!”
I shout and stumble. He does not budge.
After thirteen years, neither snow nor train,
only a few letters, and twice, from a cell,
his hoarfrost accent crossed the Atlantic.
His mask slips a moment as in childhood,
pure departure, a gesture of smoke.

Along freighted crowds the city punished,
picking faces in the thick nest of morning’s
hard light that struck raw and stupid,
searching, and in the dribble of night commuters,
I have never found him, wandering the almond
trees’ shadows, since a virus disheartened
the palms’ blossoms and mother gave me the sheaves
in her purse so he would remember her
and then shaved her head to a nut.

I talk fast of her in one of my Cerberus
voices, but he laughs, shaking the scales
of froth on his coat. The station’s cold
cracks a hysterical congregation;
his eyes flash little obelisks that chase the spirits
out, and, without them, wavering, I see
nothing like me. Stranger, father, cackling
rat, who am I transfixed at the bottom
of the station? Pure echo in the train’s
beam arriving on its cold nerve of iron.

Source of the text – Ishion Hutchinson, House of Lords and Commons: Poems.  New York, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2017, p. 3-4.

TJB: In the station ie Hades, the poet sees the apparition of a father’s face in the crowd—that moment when you are nothing, & everything, like him.

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