Timetable by Bruce Guernsey

Timetable

Behind me this morning on the train,
in the early light made warm
through the window’s double-glass,
an old Amish man,
the rough of his beard gone white,
is singing to his wife, both of them
round and red-faced as apples
in their simple clothes, bonnet and hat,
their seat on the Amtrak
one of those looking south
as we head north to Chicago.

My back against theirs,
I close my eyes to listen
but in the privacy of their language,
in the seclusion of their ways,
I can’t make out the words
and hear instead the rails,
their heartbeat like hooves
as he hums to her in the sun,
one hand I dream in hers—the other, the reins,
their buggy’s glass lamp swinging in time
towards their farm in Arthur.

Suddenly awake, suddenly alive,
feeling suddenly happier than I have in months,
I want to call them you and me,
to sing to you in words
some guy going to a meeting in the city
can’t understand.
And oh, if I could hold your hand
just like that,
no one else on the train,
just the two of us in our buggy,
looking back.

by Bruce Guernsey, from From Rain: Poems, 1970-2010.

Editor’s Note: Possibly only someone who lives near the Amish (as I do), and who has also ridden Amtrak (as I have), will truly feel the rich imagery of this poem, but I like to imagine the emotional narrative will also reach readers who know nothing of buggies, trains, and love.

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