you are in the diode archives winter 2011



Your Father
on the Train of Ghosts

Your father steps on board the train of ghosts.
You watch him from the platform:

somehow, he doesn’t look as old
as you expected him to be.

You think this must have something to do
with the light, or maybe

how much bigger the train is.
It stretches down the track
a long way, as far as your eyes can make out.

It’s like a black bullet
that keeps speeding toward you,
you think, and then:

No, it’s like a very long train, that’s all.

Somewhere on board the train, your father
is choosing a seat.  Maybe

he’s already found one, has settled in,

picked up a magazine or newspaper
someone else left lying there,

is flipping through it, idly.
Maybe he’s looking out the window, for you
you would like to think, waving,

only you’ll never see it
because of the reflected glare.

Or maybe he’s not looking for you at all.
Maybe he’s watching the hot air balloons
that have just appeared

all over the sky, ribbed like airborne hearts
of the giants Jack killed.

In the stories, Jack has no father.
This would explain a lot, you are thinking

as the train begins to pull away:

his misplaced affections,
stealing the harp of gold that played
all by itself.  Around you,

men and women and children
are standing on the platform, shouting, waving,
hugging themselves.
The wind is cold; it must be March.

You would want that kind of music
if you were Jack, wouldn’t you?


Pharaoh’s Daughter
(Chagall Motion Study)

You’re going there.  And you know
there are ways to do it, because you’ve read
the newspapers, the travel advisories,
seen the timetables and the photographs.

It’s Portland or Eugene or else
some new form of German unforgetting.

In the pewter tenements nostalgia
is secretly forging all the celebrity careers
you won’t know about
until later, until it’s too late.

You’re just one of the stones in the capitol,
or in the alleys leading to the capitol.
The website says, “Remember,
not all animals needed to be full grown,
not every variation of every genus.”

The website says, “Consider all the facts,
and it makes a lot more sense than
the little 4-animal arks you see
in pictures and toys.”  1.5 million cubic
feet of space.  40,000 animals.
Special restrooms for the handicapped.

Because everything is still evolving.
Because here is your gold star.

New shops open in Czernowitz,
in Terezin:  a post office, a discotheque.
This is how we know the model’s
built to scale:  little Braille murders.

So much is water to the human body.
Think of all that beautiful jewelry.


On the Death of Andrew Wyeth

There’s a green place, you think,
& a river, from just inside the airliner
where the restaurant has just
touched down.  The captain is taking
a bow, the passengers are taking a bow,
waiters in evening wear lead them all
past the commemorative buffet.

The dancers are knocking
at the locked doors of the abandoned
warehouse.  They shiver in the cold.
Nobody answers, nobody lets them in.

The restaurant moves slowly,
either with or against the current.
The president appears as a holograph
on the backside of a dollar bill.

In the green place, you think,
scientists will deliver the evidence
to the people who need it most,
in holiday packaging:  the DNA
samples, the pharmaceutical trials,
confetti from the postal strike.

From the basements of courthouses,
their dingy walk-ups & coldwater flats,
the dancers will unpeel each piece
of evidence from every other
piece of evidence, examining closely
what it was we said we wanted,

or thought we wanted.  They will speak
calmly to the lawyers & TV
cameras.  They will move gracefully
out of the doorways the survivors
keep making, they will keep bringing us
their beautiful, irrefutable names.  


G. C. Waldrep’s most recent collections are Archicembalo (Tupelo Press, 2009) and Your Father on the Train of Ghosts (in collaboration with John Gallaher; BOA Editions, forthcoming April 2011). His work has appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, American Letters & Commentary, Tin House, Quarterly West, Harper’s, and elsewhere. He currently teaches at Bucknell University, where he also directs the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets.