from Landscapes on a Train

Cole Swensen

Planes of migrating geese. The geese are hundreds, they in sheets, hundreds of feet

Up in hundreds of slightly black angles. There are two sheets of geese only barely

Distinguishable as such, in and out. Of each other like shifting screens the rhythm of

The shift gives the air shelves, floors, an infinite splitting of hooves. They rend a petal

In wax is peeled, in warm go the clouds. In clouds go high.





White flock over the field just set. In a scattering flood. Over the field just

The straightened braid. Horses on all sides straighten the clay. And two

White horses walk the silence. By broken steeple: steeple open: open

The sky blue soft. And later pass. Down a lane that curves and then comes

Across. Cross, and change all this.





Sea of soft. White flowers over the soft. Crow the black strike. Is over and the trees go

Even. Even farther down the gold field, the white chalk, the open wall, a stone road

Curves the clouds. That deepen all seen, and the white birds, three. Slice. Into the forest

The green wall almost. The green almost stone. Things down in the water almost move.





And things across water cut. Would carve, would small and then would, across water

A sail now cuts. It cuts open the curtain that curtains the leaves and that of their

Reflection. Each leaf opened, sliced, and then shines. Its shine timed. Thin

Graft. And through it the sun and through it flew. Onward the sun and run

The hills. A herd is sprinkled as an edge.





And only now a river. Running aground green and flat boats among pollarded trees

Bare of leaves, more greenhouses making small plants making color or missing

A pane of the missing greenhouse tarnished silver in the missing sun. These are

Not windows above.





People sleep on trains. People asleep on trains behind glasses the man across from

Me is asleep and behind his glasses a half-opened eye. I think we see all the time.

In sleep, time dives. In the sleep of trains a lateral slip on a glaze of ice. The train

Racing sleep alive. Is breaking. On the inward thorn. Racing barb, the faces racing

Tossed aside, the faces still going, with the face going on.



Cole Swensen is the author of fourteen collections of poetry, most of them focused on a single issue or question—formal gardens, illuminated manuscripts, the manufacture of glass, etc. Her most recent book, Gravesend, looks at the cultural history of ghosts, and her current project, Landscapes On A Train, melds photography and text to engage landscape as a fluid medium. She divides her time between Paris and Providence RI, where she teaches in the Literary Arts Department at Brown University.