Rochelle L. Harris is from Northwest Georgia where she currently teaches writing and literature at Kennesaw State University. Her publications have appeared in such journals as Pedagogy, symplokē, Women's Studies Quarterly, Writing on the Edge, Crab Orchard Review, and Fourth Genre. She lives on a smallish mountain in the foothills of the Appalachians with four cats, a big garden, and a fledgling vineyard.
we stand in the wind of a train
with one wet wheel sliding.
I was falling in love, and trains were the soundtrack. That's the simplest explanation behind this poem. The more complicated versions come when I convey the who (friends of twenty-three years making the unexpected leap into romance), the where (separated by five states), the context (the first time we talked face to face in this liminality happened in the clacketing thunder of a passing train), and the poetry (verse after stanza after lyric about trains). The trains become my metonymy, the attribute that helped me give voice to this transition. Several longer poems, full of the imagery of cars as prayer flags or plumes of exhaust as songs — and full of sounding wheels — I snapped into bits, examining the lines. I tested their sonic qualities, rearranged and relineated, hoping to understand myself in that moment by the tracks with my friend's (soon to become love's) hands holding me steady against the turbulence. I peeled off the first line of the longest poem — "We stand in the wind of trains" — and let the "wind" with its "w" and its buffeting lead to the next line, "with one wet wheel sliding," built from scores upon scores of lines, compressed into the couplet. When I made it honest — "a train," just the one — the poem caught.