Slow Train To Ikeda

Thursday, November 23, 2017 - By: Grace L, Allard ‘19

Below is this year’s Grade 11 winner of the Serup Poetry Competition.

I am on a slow train to Ikeda —

a town in western Japan

where you lived as a baby

when you had curly chestnut hair.

 

I met you years ago

when I lived in a world of

white houses with white fences

fish and chips on grass

pumpkin spiced scones

and my father’s grey eyes

the kind of eyes that I never had.

 

My father left me before I could spell

but I grew up writing poems about him,

each word paying for each strand of chromosome

he had left at my doorstep.

 

But he is not here,

I'm on a slow train to Ikeda

the seats in this train are spinach green.

Outside, people are cooking rice in their miniature houses

steam rising up chimneys, tinting the clouds hues of orange

cracking up a little entrance to heaven

 

It's a quiet town

all the sounds in the world drained

from the underground pipes.

People living monotonous lives

washing the rice,

once, twice, three times

 

As I sit here, on a seat

as green as traffic lights

I try to hear your voice

and feel the soft fuzz of your hair.

The present feels so alive

the tangibility of it might leak

and flood the carriages of this train.

 

If you were here right now

you would ask me,

"Do you still write?"

I would say,

"No."

"Why?"

"The new criteria is too hard.

I don't tick those boxes anymore."

You would then say something along the lines of

"You tick 'em boxes that others don't."

 

But you are not here,

I am on a slow train to Ikeda.

Out of all these blue-roofed houses,

which one did you live in?

Your Norwegian mother, who moved here

with your Japanese father:

did she miss

the opposite shore of the Pacific?

 

Maybe you too,

are on a slow train to Ikeda

one that departed

three minutes before mine

 

Maybe my father is waiting

at the terminal station.

He couldn't find me all these years

because he was cursed — stuck in a loop of time.

Standing with the rice-cooking villagers,

on the bleaker end of love,

he waves at me

his hair looking as grey as his eyes.

Grace L, Allard ‘19

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