I stare out the window, not sure why I’m here.
A slow parade of oil derricks
grey metal grasshoppers feeding in slow motion,
water tanks, mounds of rusted metal.
Occasionally, the heart-stopping startle
as an in-bound train shrieks past.
I blink and all is beige desolation once more.
Squat box buildings, senseless rock piles,
once in a while, stained ribbons of rivers.
I stare out the window. I am growing numb.
Then, at Santa Ana, we disembark…
A polished stone staircase appears.
I climb to its sunlit curved balcony,
lean over its wide railing and peer down.
Beneath the balcony lie iron train tracks,
Reviving a memory from my favorite film,
The Red Shoes.
The doomed ballerina,
a prisoner of her red ballet slippers,
who have her now and will never let her go,
running, running down the curved
wrought-iron staircase backstage,
flying across the stone balcony
toward that railing we’ve seen so many times.
Smoke blasts from the train passing below,
the music pounds,
the girl leaps to the railing,
poised for an instant
a bold white bird.
If the red shoes really are magic,
she will defy gravity,
soar from the railing into the sky.
We watch her rise up, the vision stops time.
Then the train whistle screams,
and she falls into the clouds of smoke below.
Reality, of course. Ah, well…
I lean over the smooth railing again,
see my own shadow
on the train tracks below,
hear music from trees’ soft rustling
all round this enchanting balcony,
then lift up my face for the sun’s rich warmth,
and the blessing of the gods.