from: Personal and Impersonal: Six Aesthetic Realists: Louis Dienes





I was in two trains going in opposite directions
At the same time and in a bathtub,
Unrocking on a floor,
On a floor of a house.
And just then I received a letter from two Negroes
Who wanted to know where they were,
With the wind carelessly caressing their faces
And leaving the collars of their long wool coats motionless.
I wanted to do something about the running of the trains
And reached for the soap
To give it to the firemen
To stoke the boiler fires with.
But a mountain forest, cool and old and serene,
With one look communicated to me
That that was not the running to be assisted.

And I happened to be looking at one of the trains
And myself inside reading a paper
And watching the countryside pass by,
As I was rummaging around under the bathtub
For a piece of paper to answer the Negroes on,
When I noticed that even within that train
There were contradictions;
That the tracks were very straight
And embedded in six feet of rock
But that the engineer sometimes stood on his head
And lost the tobacco from his pipe
Until he even learned to reverse the pipe
And run the throttles with his toes.

And then I looked at the other train
And saw that wise old men sat uneasily in the luggage racks
And put their baggage on their seats;
And the driving wheels of the locomotive went at various speeds
And I couldn't see myself because
I must have been just getting a drink of water
Or perhaps I had turned into a chicken

And was being served
To a person in the dining car.

Suddenly I knew those trains could collide
And that for the friendliness of the mountain forest
I could owe thanks for a chance to survive the collision.
So I quickly wrote a letter to the two Negroes and said,
"You were wise to consult me
For I know the whims of winds
And furthermore can tell you from your handwritings
Where you are and what to do.
One of you, who is smoking a cigar,
Should go to a church and introduce science.
The other of you, who is leaning on a lamp post,
Should climb it as a means of getting into jail
And there write your memoirs which will so clarify your thoughts
That you will remember the telephone numbers of all your friends
And you should inquire from them further directions.
You are both now in a section of town
Which is little known,
Where birds grow from infancy to youth on red stone gables,
Where forgotten chipmunks sing in crannies of old warehouses,
Where clocks, in ticking, often pause and sigh
And ruminate about the private business of their slightest acquaintances."

As I was walking about the apartment absent-mindedly
And wondering if a mailbox would come by and knock
And take my letter,
My bathtub suddenly thumped a little and shuddered
And my heart leaped and accelerated
Because I knew that the trains had slowed down
In time to keep from colliding
And had touched each other's cow catchers gently
Instead of demolishing each other
Because my bathtub would have sympathetically exploded
To pieces, if this demolishing
Had occurred.
I looked far off into the distance
And I could see my two selves
Disembarking from the two
Stopped, panting trains
And wandering off together into each other and into the vast
Areas and spaces which extended
Around the lonely meeting place
Of those ever heretofore impatient expresses.

Personal & Impersonal (New York: Defintion Press, 1959)