I’ve always been fascinated with trains. In some of my favorite Norman Rockwell paintings, I can see trains in the background galloping across America. Historically, in terms of Americana, they have symbolized freedom and exploration. Unfortunately, I think they have come to symbolize inefficiency too…and some of the romance is gone. But perhaps it’s starting to change.
Recently, I took a train ride from Portland, Oregon, to Seattle, Washington, for AWP. The first photo, a sort of self portrait, is a picture of me right before I got on the train. I tried to live tweet at Amtrak on the train to give me the new train residency, but I didn’t hear back. So that got me thinking about the way Norman Rockwell might have seen trains today. Below you will see a collection of pictures that try and imagine what that would have been like. Check it out. And feel free so send us your train pics: email@example.com.
This one above is from D Peto, a regular contributor to Rockwell’s Camera Phone. He almost didn’t take this shot from last summer when he was riding his bike in Massachusetts, but he did anyway. Thank goodness he did. It’s a great pic.
This photo almost looks like a ghost train. It’s funny, Jessica Ceballos, the woman behind the camera phone on this pic, told me she took this shot with a bunch of difference apps on her phone. Well, I often wonder how Rockwell would have used apps. Maybe he would have experimented and took a photo like this. And if not, who cares? This is a bad ass pic, and she took it when she drove from Los Angeles to Seattle for AWP. We had the same destination…but different routes.
On this day in 1946, the sun gave birth to Patti Smith. And the Earth was inspired to dance, paint, fuck, sing, kiss, think, write, create
“O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do; They pray, grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.” ~ Romeo, to Juliet, upon first meeting. ~ William Shakespeare
I would like to ask you out. I would ask you out to a play, or an outdoor concert, or a picnic—something old-fashioned and slow and private, but outside. Let’s go to a play. You told me you’ve picked out your dress, it’s old. I have no idea what I’ll wear, and don’t care. I do care about your face, and your walk, and your voice, and whether you read, and what. And that’s the point of going out. Getting to know. I want to know, among nine other things, whether you have the guts to do your own thing.
I would like to ask you out. “Yes.” But not romantically—you’re still not available, remember, and I’m not sure. I was wounded once, and while I’ve soaked and healed and cried and talked and dated…I’m a cautious young man, now, who is no longer all so very young. I am not scarred: I am not scared of failure. But I am beaten, beaten, beaten like a sword in the fire. And as the smoke of karma has dispersed, I find that for the first time in my love life, sex is not a goal. Like a confettied champagne-soaked tickertape parade at the end of a great victory, I know it’ll come with, if the rest happens.
And I want to ride my invisible bicycle up to you, sitting on a bench.
The rest begins now, though it may end in the next moment. Or this moment. That’s how first and second dates are. First dates are pure, and delightful, and full of real but ephemeral love…if they go well. The old heart warms again and childlike, a dangerously naive hope of love buds up. Second dates are a time to talk, a time to get to know, a time to see if the avocado soaked in clean water in a jam jar set on only two toothpicks in the warm sun will sprout. You have to wait two weeks, sometimes.
I’m too old for naive optimism, but I’m too young to take myself too seriously. I would like to take dance lessons with you, my hand on the small of your back. I’m good at laughing while learning and moving through crowds: a skill that comes in handy at festivals and parties and in leadership and in playing, as I did when I was a beatle-headed boy with a stick, drawing lines in the rained mud so the streams of water would join or route this way or that. I used to spend hours saving the silly worms from blindly drowning in tiny puddles.
I would like to see how you dress: you like stripes, you like belts, you like cotton, you like clean sweat. And I would like to remember the color of your eyes before the dusk comes, and I would like to know whether to say two names and how to say your your last name. I would like to get to know you, more. And if, in the dance of conversation and movement, we find ourselves swimming, cool saltwater, San Francisco-like moisture beneath the wide moon, then we may wish to embrace. But we won’t.
You like white, you like turquoise, you like buck-tanned boots.
Watching the play, I would like to be distracted by my desire to touch you. I would like to have to focus, again and again, on the actor’s rapid, dense language. This is no comedy, no romance. My desire for you now is curious, it is careful, it is the kind of romantic desire that leads great writers to write timeless poetry and poor writers to write sweet drivel. For there is no greater joy known to humankind than in first holding hands—except perhaps staving off the desire to do so. And that may seem saccharine, but think: touching for the first time is the moment of the passing from “you are a human and I am a human and there are thousands of millions of others like you and I” to “you are a human and I am human and we are us.” This is an intimate moment that, like smoke from clean Japanese incense, is easily dispersed by a wave of the hand. Fate or a brief moment of argument or a chilling of insecurity or a lapse of presence and the spark of our enjoyment of one another may cool. It’s happened before. And no one wants cold; everybody wants warmth. But I can not hold your hand, not yet.
I want to know how many brothers or sisters you have, and are your old parents loving to you and one another, and how well do you love your friends, and how do you discuss ex-boyfriends and boyfriend who you love, or don’t love, or like, or don’t like. And do you need drugs, legal or illegal, and why. And what music do you listen to, and a thousand other things like: your neck. Do you have integrity and an old soul, a mother’s wisdom, and yet do you smile readily, like the jump of a deer, startled!
And I want to read your card, and pass along one red gift (so thoughtful so rare to give such a gift to a dear stranger), and I want to eat the other red gift. And I want to read your thoughts and fall in love too much for just a moment.
I want to see you from the right, and from the left. You prefer your left side. I prefer both (good god). I want to keep my mind and desire at bay: beauty demands focus, early on. Later, one can relax into it, as I do when it’s snowing and I’ve had a long day and I sink into my hot tub with an aaaaaaah, and I’ve brought coffee out with me if it’s sunny or gin if it’s dark and I drink both too quickly and yet I savor them as I do so. My cowboy hat keeps the snowflakes off of my wrinkled New Yorker, in which two of the articles are good enough to frame and put up on a wall where I might reread them, forever, and others might enjoy them when they stop by for some reason and wait in my entrance because they don’t want to take their shoes off.
I would like to want you, but I do not know you, and I finally no longer want what I do not know. It’s true: I do not want you. I haven’t even thought of opening and kissing you and bending, holding and rocking you. I have thought (and as a Buddhist I am well aware that my thoughts are form, and empty, and luminous if seen as such) of your hair, your bow and arrow, your eyes, your hammer or saw, your pen or laptop, and your style, your wide white smile, and your handwriting. Your words make me want to savor you. I’ve always been a lover of elegance.
I would like to slowly walk back to my house. I will kiss you good night, chastely, on the cheek, holding your left shoulder with my right hand. Later, not now, I would like to know (and if not, I would like to be true friends, and that would make me just as happy).
“Some may think only to marry, other will tease and tarry, mine is the very best parry—Cupid he rules us all.”
I would like to daydream. And I would like to fly to you and with you. I would like to learn to surf and wear very little for a long time with you. I would like to jump off a modest cliff over a lake in the old green country with you, and dogpaddle and dry off. I would like to go to book readings with you, and wear white with you. And I would like to admire your stripes and literary sadness…and even grow old with you, and live in a proud yellow house and a humble cabin and I would like to raise ten children, or twelve, or three. With you. I’m an excellent Uncle to many, and will make an excellent father, and a strong but silly, and almost-always patient husband. I’ll make a generous success of myself. And I’ll make a tireless, charming, stubborn public servant when my sideburns turn white and my eyes crinkle in the sun (like Tony this morning, the old lonely friendly widower on the mountain lookout who remembers when they put in the first stoplight).
I can promise a busy life, and a peaceful one. And a warm one, and a hard one, full of true lessons.
I would like not to: argue, but to debate; I want not to push you, but to be encouraged by you; I want not to be bored of you, but to laugh at myself. I want to walk behind you, closely following your golden shoulders and pregnant mind.
“Ooh, stay open…”
I would like not to: think about my walking, but to be present. I want to nearly forget to go on future dates together, so lost are we together, but then to go to new old plays and have future unexpected roofs and times of discord and degradation of integrity only serve to highlight our woolen, cozy, romantic friendship within a summer fort (just as did our second “date”).
“I wanna make this play…”
I would like to remember…how my voice grows soft around you. My soft voice surprises me, but not you, for you don’t know my normal voice. I would like you to remember…your kindness surprises me: I am used to new friends and lovers feeling small around my whirlwind, fast beginning to tear at me for a superiority that I do not need.
I want not to want…no more, but to have…and to let go. The beets are delicious, this time of year.
I would like to see you.
(originally posted on Elephant Journal)
by JAMIE FIGUEROA Because Our Bodies Remember I When the Spanish packed for the trip, they neglected to include their women. Supplies, changes of wardrobe, and bottles of wine were loaded in…
The 11th edition of my favorite digital codex de arts & letters is out now!!
Hinchas de Poesia focuses on contemporary Pan-American writing but also publishes some strong artwork and experimental pieces. This issue is guest edited by Bluebird Reading alumn, Bojan Louis!
And when you’re done checking it out, submit your work for the next issue!
History for sale #arroyovista #garvanza #stayaway
Sometimes, the best cure for the malaise is some quality time with amazing artists like Wendy C. Ortiz and Kristina Wong. Actually, all the time.