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Wisdom Isn’t a Train

Victoria Leigh Bennett

“Wisdom is knowing when to stop.”

Mean old man, God, some kind of scholar,

Pulling hard on my pigtail

As I danced around the lawn.

Mean old men, meant to be ignored, so I did.

But I was young.

Now that I am a mean old woman, I say,

Telling God,

Wisdom isn’t a train.

Wisdom is knowing when to stop loving,

Wisdom is knowing when to quit.

Smokers quit, drinkers quit, druggies quit, why can’t I?

But I’ve always loved trains.

Trains are my favorite form of locomotion from place to place.

You can still walk on them, if you want,

Much better than on a plane,

And planes are for those who like the ethereal experience,

Flying up there with the mean old man in the next cloud over.

So, love is like a train, I guess.

Next stop, who knows?

Some little burg after the tiresome adventure of some big city

Last time.  Boy, was he exhausting and demanding!

Thank God I can still see him passing from the train as I go on,

And can remember all the exhausting and demanding fun we had!

Love is like an adventure at the breakfast bar—

Will the dining car be serving the Great American Breakfast*,

Or won’t it?

Depends.  Are you in Utah, before ten in the morning,

Or in Atlanta, after five wee hours?

It always looks the same, that breakfast, or maybe

Now I just know what to expect, despite regional differences.

So, I can order a honey bun, if I want.

He’s sweet, nothing much to him, room for another by and by.

And oh! The sleeping cars, for those who like to sleep over!

This ain’t a short ride, baby, no more, he’s here for the show!

And wouldn’t it be that sly old moon shining his spoony face

In through the windows as we slide around the curves!

Not even that Venus/Lucifer pair in heaven showing, whom I’d expected,

But just the moon, even with the old man God up there disapproving,

Still managing to cause a fair amount of love on Earth.

So, sleeping on a train with or without conscious intention

To shut the slider pane on the moon and leave him out

In anticipation of being a mean old woman some day,

I accidentally did it, when he shone too bright,

Too bright for right and tight and locomotive shape** relations,

And then, there we were.

The train had stopped.

The conductor banged on the door.

But I wanted to go on, I wanted to go on,

But now it’s too late,

My turn to get off, only a few more stops down the track.

But can’t I keep loving until then?

Couldn’t you just, I mean, couldn’t we just,

(His face begins to look more and more like a mean old man’s)

I mean, maybe I could just do like they do in the movies,

And grab my bags and jump off,

Maybe there’s a Northbound Limited going the other way,

With an open freight door?

In a voice of doom, that He says,

“You won’t find there what you’re looking for.”

But loving trains as I do and trained in love as I am,

How do I know what I’m looking for, until I ride it?

Another He might be the next stop!

(Wisdom isn’t a train, but I sure do love me a train.)



*Though it may no longer be the case, Amtrak in the U.S. used to serve the Great American Breakfast coast-to-coast; it’s on about the quality level of a McDonald’s complete breakfast these days.  I have used it here in a double sense in case you know train culture from your own experience or from observation of the interesting train version of The Mile High Club which still seems to exist.  For simpler folk, perhaps!       

**According to Microsoft Bing’s AI, “locomotive shape” is the train term paralleling the sailing term “shipshape and Bristol fashion.”

Victoria Leigh Bennett, Ph.D., English/Theater. In-Print: Poems from the Northeast, 2021; OOP but on website: Scenes de la Vie Americaine (en Paris), 2022. From Fall 2021-Summer 2023, has published 39 times in: @HooghlyReview, @FeversOf, @press_roi, @LovesDiscretion, @TheUnconCourier, & 7 others. Coming: Oct: Fiction in @HooghlyReview, Nov: 4 poems, @Dreich25197318. 

Twitter: @vicklbennett & @PoetsonThursday