When Traveling, Ride Your Train Respectfully
We rode the Polar Express on Christmas Eve’s Eve with our granddaughter, when this character boarded with a bindle stick reminding me of the legendary train ride to New York City with Joe Schuyler over forty years ago, when I met the great-great (& a number of other greats in between, I imagine), but Susan Byssher used only two to say she was Percy Bysshe Shelley’s great-great-granddaughter, showing me underwater slides she took during her recent trip to the Caribbean, turning sea life into colorful abstract compositions, adding when she disembarked at Stamford, Connecticut, that I should call her so we could get together in the city, but didn’t. Said to this character, “Are you a hobo?” to which he answered, “Why, yes I am. I’m Hobo Joe,” sticking out his hand to shake, unveiling the mystery of his presence to the littlest ones. An Angelina is a young inexperienced child in hobo jargon. I wondered if the word hobo comes from hop boxcars? Re-minding me, too, of skipping town on the train out of Boston, & landing in Indianapolis, hair past shoulders nursing a beer over a book in the pool hall bar, where the blond Lithuanian told her husband she wanted to tell me I reminded her of Dostoevsky, which compliment I’ll take to the grave, smiling. All these train memories welling up. Standing in line for tickets to Guadalajara in the Mexicali train station, where Anna, (married to Sonora, also a poet, who sat with Neruda after a reading in Mexico City eating oysters), predicted we’d meet many interesting people on our three-month trek. Which we did.
Turning the wrong corner in a rental out of San Francisco airport, having to wait for the hundred-car train to pass the crossroad, counting them all & thinking the whole time of Kerouac & his own Railroad Earth, (The ground I [he] would have eaten in solitude…), or (In Brueghel’s time children danced around the hobo…). I’ve had 54 jobs in this life on earth. Always looked for work, a hobo’s credo, always try to look for work, & the lowest ones at that, the ones nobody else wants = cleaned out cellars & hospital furnaces, cut fish with a band saw & sharp knives, lumped 77-&-a-half-pound boxes of frozen fish 10-high in the hold of a Japanese factory ship. Dyed & dried animal skins in the leather factory. Nickel note is a five-dollar bill handed out often since. Kerouac asks, The old Divine Comedy hobo? answering The hobo is Virgil, he leadeth. Train standing in Marseille, out of which I stepped onto the platform, just to say I was there. Tokay blanket refers to drinking wine to stay warm. I recently learned of the amygdala, small primitive part of our brain governing both the sense of space & emotions. I dig that. Carry my shillelagh along the tracks to keep bone polishers (mean dogs) at bay. A recent review of my work published in France refers to how truly important place and space are in the poet’s work. Look at me (as Marguerite Duras says of her own character aboard the ferry from Sadec to Saigon) boarding the train from Paris to Cahors. Wrote Ode to New York City rocking back & forth on the train. #11 in the Hobo Ethical Code established at the 1889 National Hobo Convention in St. Louis, Missouri, states in part, When traveling, ride your train respectfully…