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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Bending with the Wait
(Thoughts from Holland Station)

Rising early
when houses are dark
but for the little light
left on for flannel-wonderings
in the night,
I step into my untied boots
and out in the falling snow
to heft two heavy bags
in the back of the family wagon.
The streets and car are silent
but for the chatter of two girls,
dressed for the day but barely awake
(best friends since junior high),
reliving highlights of their break
and reveling in what lies ahead
(all the delights and some of the dread
behind curtain number two,
sometimes called second-semester).

A quick stop
for bagels and coffee
to take aboard the train,
then off again
through the silent rhythm and glow
of streetlights in the falling snow.
(Driving with one hand,
heading south toward the station town,
I hold the cup just below my lip.
There is no finer smell
than coffee in the cold
before the first sip.)
A mile or so past Grand Haven's lights
the road is lined with towering pines,
flocked in the night’s fresh falling,
boughs bending with the weight
but holding tight.
Ten miles and then the sign:
Train Station Next Right.

And there it is as if in a painting
from another time
before all else around
left trains behind.
The little brick station comes into view
with awning stretched like open arms
each way along the track.
Snow drapes from its eaves,
as if it were a raised curtain on a stage
where shadows of the past look on
at woolen hugs and mitted tugs
at overcoats to button up
and here and there a kissing pair
whose last good-byes
and frosted whispers hang in the air.
And right on time
comes the far-away moan,
a tone that, in and of itself, is
one of man’s unsung achievements.
(A train whistle
in the distance
is to time
what church bells
are to eternity.
Life‘s score,
if such a song exists,
consists of well-placed notes
around such forgotten sounds.)

Louder and nearer
the whistle blows,
joined by clanging bells
at the nearby crossing,
'til rolling to a stop, there comes
a windowed wall with wheels.
Out steps the happy porter
whose smile and ready hands
tell me he clearly understands
the untold stories all around.
He lifts the spirits and the elbow
of each passenger who steps up
and disappears above.
One more hug.
“I love you, Dad!” she squeezes.
“I love you, Kim,” I whisper in her ear,
“Call us when you get there.”
The conductor helps her with her bag,
and likewise helps her friend.
Another smile at the top of the stair,
then gone and just in time.
The conductor cups his hand
(and relishes this moment
of the job he loves)
“All aboard!” he calls to the front,
leaning outward from his grip,
then, turning in, bounds two steps up
to beat the closing doors.

The lights flash and bells clang
at the 8th Street crossing just ahead,
and the train rolls slowly south.
It will in time gain speed and lumber
'round the lake to Chicago,
but just now it's slow enough to walk beside,
waving at a window,
if life were like the movies, or if…
a father wanted to humiliate
his college-age daughter inside.
So I don’t.
I just turn
and slosh through the empty station
to my double-parked car,
already lightly covered with snow.
Brushing it off, I tell myself
we’ll see her in a month or so.
(The train whistles. Half past eight.)
“Two months,” I smile but meanwhile
our hearts bend with the wait.
© Copyright ,2009, TK, Patterns of Ink

I took Kim and one of her dear friends who attends the same college in Chicago to the station early this morning. We had a very nice three-week break with her. She is enjoying school so much, and being just three or four hours away, the departure wasn't as sad as the ones I recall when I went back to school after Christmas. I've picked her up or dropped her off here before, but the setting always gets me. The whole thing went so smoothly and was so beautiful that verbal images kept flooding my mind as I drove away. So I stopped and scribbled the lines above on the back of the coffee shop placemat. (Do you ever just have to do that? I do. My family thinks I'm crazy--except maybe Kim who does the same things sometimes.)

I wish I had a good picture of Holland Station in the snow. The above photo was taken with a cell phone. It shows a train approaching 8th Street, but you can barely see the station. The post card here is more than a hundred years old (not of Holland Station). But for the "costumes" little has changed at such places.

Last week today I was very sick, but things are getting back to "normal" here at the house. We took down most Christmas decorations this morning (all but the village on the mantle).

Next "Unsettled" chapter is on the way. Really!

Writer's Note: I'm sometimes curious if readers catch "ring-a-bell" phrases I use in writing. I like to include word combinations that can trigger greater images than the words themselves mean. In stanza three, lines 11 and 12 read "... woolen hugs and mitted tugs at overcoats to button up," I was hoping to suggest the song made famous by Helen Kane (aka Betty Boop). Here's a recording of it from 1929. The line makes sense, but if the reader even vaguely remembers that old song it helps invoke one of the eras when trains were a setting of affectionate farewells.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dad, I loved that it was sooo good. Please keep a hard copy to write in the notebook I'm getting you! Love, Kim

10/1/09 10:17 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Hi, Kim,
I fell asleep on the couch during the football game and just woke up. =) I'll assume Kurt Warner's Cards won. (You remember the quarterback who sat bench for UNI and stocked shelves at the HyVee in Cedar Falls, Iowa, back when we lived there?) They were way ahead when I fell asleep.

Sounds like you're all settled in. I will write this in that notebook for you. Thanks for the calendar that came in the mail today.

(Yawn...) I'm off to bed. Talk to you soon.

11/1/09 1:30 AM  
Blogger the walking man said...

Tom I had a hard time deciding whether I was reminded of Frost or Sandburg. Sandburg was where the vote went. Excellent piece of writing, bringing all the intended images to the presence of the reader.

And yes i too have been known to stop, drop and write on whatever surface presents itself. If it be insane then madness be my name.

11/1/09 3:19 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Thanks, Mark. Either of those guys is good company. The Chicago that Sandburg wrote about is very different from the Chicago of today (unfortunately). Frost is one of my personal favorites, but I would agree with your conclusion on these lines.

I'm glad to hear at least one other person has had the need to stop and write something when it's all just waiting inside a pen to come out.

I've read enough of your work to know that you have this experience far more often than I do. You are unfiltered, spontaneous, and prolific. This just came out. I have no idea why it's present tense other than it was very "in the moment."

11/1/09 2:31 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

I love your DEEP thoughts and the way your words flow. It reminds me of the voice I heard from your mission trip tapes. I am in awe of the way your brain works and the intelligence that it contains but most of all I keep coming back for that compassionate sentimental side of you that flows through all of your writing, especially when you write about your precious daughters, your mom & dad, and your siblings. A man with a BIG heart full of love... you are a blessing indeed to me, your readers, your family and all that pass your way.

13/1/09 11:50 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Julie and I were talking about Kim last night. We are in the middle of a sub-zero arctic blast week and Chicago is in it with us. Kim works at a shop right downtown on "the magnificant mile" (walks there from her dorm) and we are worried about her warmth, etc. We text and call her daily and she is doing fine, of course. It's just a mom-dad kind of thing. =)

14/1/09 6:10 AM  

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