The train station was a cemetery.
Drunk with spirits, another being entered.
I fanned gnats from my eyes to see into his face.
I saw father. I looked and shouted, ‘Father!’
He did not budge, after thirteen years, neither snow nor train,
only a few letters, and twice on a cell
his hoarfrost accent crossed the Atlantic.
I poked his face, his mask slipped as a moment
in childhood, a gesture of smoke, pure departure.
Along freighted crowds the city punished,
I picked faces in the thick nest of morning’s
hard light, they struck raw and stupid,
and in the dribble of night commuters,
phantoms, I have never found him. From the almond
trees’ shadows I have looked, since a virus
disheartened the palms’ blossoms and mother
shaved her head to a nut, gave me the sheaves
in her purse so he would remember her.
I was talking fast of her in one of my Cerberus
voices but he laughed shaking the scales
of froth on his coat. The station’s cold cracked
back a hysterical congregation, echo and plunder,
his eyes flashed little obelisks that chased
the spirits out, and without them, wavering,
I saw nothing like me. Stranger, father, cackling
rat, I stood transfixed at the bottom of the station.
Who was I? Pure echo in the train’s beam
arriving on its cold nerve of iron. Grave,
exact, the doors breathed open. Father was nowhere
when I boarded and looked through the glass
and plunged cold down the shadow chamber
many wore many strong disguises and none
spoke or even looked I was there in the box,
incandescent, becoming half their hush,
half still in the man’s chiselling snarl, louder
now he was away and I am departing.
Photograph © jennyrotten