The patient says, “Doctor, it hurts when I do this.” “Then don’t do that!”
All night I wait for the train whistle,
the way it calls out to the world,
You are here. It doesn’t mock, exactly,
but we all know that the train whistles
because it is leaving, heading somewhere else,
not here. It can be so hard to be here.
To be here and nowhere else. To not put ourselves
on the imaginary train, wherever it is going. To sit
with the sound of traffic, with the string of red lights
that eventually turn green. And red again.
To be here with our longing, here with our
shame, our loss, our hair turning gray.
The click of the sprinkler lays a rhythmic line,
and all the night’s whirs and whines and hums
scrape against its ticking. What is it about the gap
of the missing whistle that stirs me, so?
Oh expectation. One more layer to slough.
It is like the Henny Youngman line, in which we touch
what is sore, again and again, just to be sure it still hurts.
And the train does not come, and the train does not come.
The night air, warm enough to wear nothing,
carries the scent of something nearby, familiar,
floral and sweet. Part of me longs to slip into memory
to find the scent, know it and name it this,
and part of me notices the one
who would travel back in time to know the present.
It climbs into the fragrance, meets the night as it is.