Tuesday, February 10, 2009


As I sat on the sunny side of train #241
looking out the window at the Hudson River,
topped with a riot of ice,

it appeared to the untrained eye
that the train was whizzing north along the rails
that link New York City and Niagara Falls.

But as the winter light glared
off the white river and the snowy fields,
I knew that I was as motionless as a man on a couch

and that the things I was gazing at-
with affection, I should add-
were really the ones that were doing the moving,

running as fast as they could
on their invisible legs
in the opposite direction of the train.

The rocky ledges and the trees,
blue oil drums and duck blinds,
water towers and flashing puddles

were dashing forever from my view,
launching themselves from the twigs
of the moment into the open sky of the past.

How unfair of them, it struck me,
as they persisted in their flight-
evergreens and electrical towers,

the swing set, a slanted fence,
a tractor abandoned in a field-
how unkind of them to flee from me,

to forsake an admirer such as myself,
a devotee of things-
their biggest fan, you might say.

Had I not taken a hound's interest in this world,
tipped my hat to the first magpie,
shouted up to the passing geese?

Had I not stopped enough times along the way
to stare diligently
into the eye of a roadside flower?

Still, as I sat there between stations
on the absolutely stationary train
somewhere below Albany,

I was unable to hide my wonderment
at the uniformity of their purposee,
at the kangaroo-like sprightliness of their exits.

I pressed my face against the glass
as if I were leaning on the window
of a vast store devoted to the purveyance of speed.

The club car would open in fifteen minutes,
came the announcement
just as a trestle bridge went flying by.

-Billy Collins