Dan Dorfsman



What I wrote on a Train Moving Southward

This is what I wrote on the train moving southward:


When two extremes are juxtaposed they only make each other more extreme. And one must be aware of one’s own mortality to truly experience life.

But I erased it because it sounded pretentious and I wrote this instead:


I just saw the word Jesus graffiti tagged on the side of a factory building.

That seemed more right and made the same point altogether. This train moves with the speed of hate I wrote then. But thinking that too pretentious I instead wrote, This train moves like a railroad song. Different idea but slightly more eh, listenable? Aurally pleasing. The track was, I could here a chain-gang ghost in its ripple. I wrote that.

I was chugging to New Haven playing with a charm bracelet most of the time and not having any idea why I was going to New Haven, but I chugged. But I wrote about the trip anyway walking lines around authorship and complete pompousness of the sort that attacks a fifty-year old author despite having had no prior publishing experience. On the way, I found god in strange places. Hearing a sentence in my head directly before it’s said, knowing in my heart that evil would happen and it took a woman hitting her kid to put it true.

I wrote divinity electric has brought life to my living wounds. I changed that to simply, God has touched my life with a sparking finger.

I tickled one hand with the other after lying the pen in the empty space between me and Mona Lisa next to me with her all smiles and knowing eyes and hoping she would not ask me anything, but knowing she would, because she was Mona Lisa.

I wrote Cranks and crackles reverb my very veins about the moan of the train. Thinking it pretentious, I wrote instead there are angry bears in my blood. That made for a better working.

I felt hands on my knees. I looked down to find a child, about six, male or female, and the child looked at me and said, rather asked "What are you doing." Um, not period rather "?" I said, "writing. And somewhat abstractly and pretentiously." The kid didn’t know what that meant. She was a twisted little thing. "She’s a twisted little thing," I said to Mona. Mona smiled with knowing eyes. What did she know? Did I know?

The kid was snatched up by the mother who made angry teeth whistles, the kind I never would have associated with anger. I wrote that down but figured it was too, eh, "Coming –of-Age." As if this were not a learning journey. As if I was not on a quest of some sort knowing full well that I’d end in New Haven and likewise knowing full well that I had no goddamned clue as to what was in New Haven that was so goddamned important anyway. I told this to Mona, then the little kid and the mother whistled and Mona smiled knowingly. And what the hell did she know?

I wrote, I see Jesus in all these people, but thinking that corny, I erased it and wrote in its place, I see the crucified youth in all of their pasts, but I didn’t think that was very good at all so I abandoned the whole idea altogether.

That’s when the child started flailing in merciless inner tantrums. I use the word "inner" to signify that the child was not flailing for any particular reason, but in more of a seizure in such a way that it seemed as if his body was in rebellion against the natural world. Mona unknowingly picked up the child and began to spank it as if it were her own, to which the mother’s whistles bounced around the car like a revelation, or rather a sigh of eureka. The child still pounded the air with his fists as Mona’s face became scarlet with a rage I never would have expected, her hair flying in challenge of the child’s raging limbs.

The mother thrust her arms out and yanked the child’s arms to save him from Mona’s decision to release her inner ghost into the living world. The child yelped and its shoulder freed itself rather eagerly from the rest its angry frame or better, tempest body.

Mother crashed back into her chair with a honk and the child droned. Mona sat back and smiled at me knowingly. What creature comforts awaken when this whore boils in heat I wrote, but thinking that pretentious I changed it instead to, music should soothe this beast, but she cannot hear the ghost song in the tracks.

On the way to New Haven, a town of that held mystery for my traveling soul, I gazed out my train car’s window to the nature that panned, sneaking past completely settled. The trees shook frantic arms and the grass appeared as prickles to threaten a peddling predator. But if the natural as one extreme is juxtaposed with god as the other, one close enough to mortality to touch and the other a complete challenge to understand, then where do the two find each other? Is god natural or a product of natural mind, most likely the ladder, I wrote as response to the scene I witnessed. But finding the whole thing angsty I wrote a footnote in its place stating, observe Old Testament god i.e.) the story of Lot as God’s cruel mischief or the simple Adam and Eve where God protects man from knowledge. That was all too pretentious and I wrote nothing in its place intending instead to simply let whatever story I might tell myself speak for itself. Or is that too much credit where it’s not due. Do I know?

My train yanked into a stop. Mona glanced at me with a knowing smile and said, "this is your stop," so it was. I, like a good passenger, exited the bus at a steady pace, shielding my notebook from the cold and hungry world or better, the tired and ragged world or rather, the beaten doll of the world. New Haven shown bright under a noon dusk or a pale moon or a sky like a weary stranger ready to settle.

My wife and two kids met me there, beckoning me home and I didn’t want to go. I would have rather taken the train northward. But if it is our lot in life to end up where we will end then perhaps I must ride this train. But that sounds pretentious, so perhaps not.

My wife looked like an impression of life. My children lay their weight on their feet and furrowed their young brow. With them I took my strides to exhaust the awful functions that have crippled my brain in attempt to mock life. At least that is what I thought as I headed homeward

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