The one who has to come will come
the one who has to leave will go away.
I cannot choose, they say. It
has all been written, they say.
The words chosen, the path mapped.
The time of arrival, the time of departure
and you must wait on the platform
not knowing when the train will arrive or depart.
Or where it’ll take you.
There will be no announcements
true or false
about its arrival or its departure
but nothing will stop you either, from
supping a leisurely cup of tea. Or
one so hasty that it scalds your tongue. Stop you
from sharing a joke with the stranger who perches on her trunk
or from browsing at the book stall
poring over titles. Turning
a desultory eye on the pictures that illustrate a tome,
even imbibing some fleeting textbook wisdom.
buying a book you’ll leave behind on your seat
when you disembark. For the next traveller to enjoy or deride,
perhaps. Or for the beggar
who’ll enter the vacant train in search
of the scraps that remain
mute testaments of your last meal. The
empty water bottles that will fetch a few coins.
The book might be sold for scrap
or its pages lovingly turned.
What difference does it make?
The words were not your own. As
you thought when you read it.
Someone else had chosen them.
So what if they seeped into your mind and became yours.
The words were the writer’s. The
one who writes all our lives
Not yours, hopeful reader.
when the train stops and it’s time to disembark
knowledge will streak through your mind
like lightning illuminating the evening sky
and you will realize they were always there,
floating in the wind
unseen microbes, biding their time.
waiting for the fogged microscope of your eye
to clear and find them.
While countless trains came and went
describing endless journeys to God knows where.
Then you will learn
it matters not who the writer is or who
the reader. It is enough that words exist
those golden grains gleaned out of the mind’s dust
to nourish a famished moment.
And when this knowledge confronts you
as you step off the train
you have everything and yet have nothing.
The words and the book
the music and the song
you have them and you leave them
with no regret
or sense of loss.
Because they will not be orphaned
as you once feared.
Another will claim them, nurture them.
Another who paces the platform
waiting to mount the train.
Not knowing the time of its arrival or departure
not knowing its final destination
yet eager for the journey which promises
everything and nothing.