Beloved Train Station

NaPoWriMo DAY TWENTY-TWO 22 April 2020

Today, our poetry resource is the South Asian Literary Recordings Project, where you will find audio files of readings given by prominent poets, playwrights, and novelists from India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, in twenty-two different languages.

Our (optional) prompt for the day asks you to engage with different languages and cultures through the lens of proverbs and idiomatic phrases. Many different cultures have proverbs or phrases that have largely the same meaning, but are expressed in different ways. For example, in English we say “his bark is worse than his bite,” but the same idea in Spanish would be stated as “the lion isn’t as fierce as his painting.” Today, I’d like to challenge you to find an idiomatic phrase from a different language or culture, and use it as the jumping-off point for your poem. Here are a few lists to help get you started: One, two, three.

The idiom: Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof.

Literal translation: “I only understand train station.”

What it means: “I don’t understand a thing about what that person is saying.’”


Understanding. Oh my. In vain.

I only ever understand train

station. Stationary under

– standing needs training. Take a train,

speed it up? Love trains and

the stations where they depart.

High art: take off undetected.

Start when exchange becomes,

as expected, cumbersome, reflect:

you’re free! Board a carriage,

off with Chocolate or Fondue Express

to Grindelwald or Timbuktu,

better yet the Orient Express,

Agatha Christie deluxe company,

or to Adelaide with an emu

the Serengeti with a gnu!

Don’t disparage.

My imagined trip’s your guess.

Why stand still to understand?

Wait for shaggy-dog’s tail end?

If I barge in with a question

inquirer is the one who’s dumb,

speaker to perfection tweaked

sweet meaning from his honeycomb.

Now wasps threaten to sting him,

not worth the price of a brief fling,

cause he wanted to talk.

I walk silent, study pebbles, consider

clouds, birds in flight (larks even sing),

audit transient cows, udders’ swing,

extraneous chatter not my thing.

Understanding makes demands.

Hard to stand beneath another’s

words or meaning, not at ease,

often, shame, far from same.

Bow, squeeze into decreed space?

Mold into what I’m being told?

Be smart! Escape!

Shape your own destination.

Best place: the train station.

That much I understand.

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