BAGGAGE CLAIM AT UNION STATION, PALM SUNDAY
Two levels below the empty echoing hall
where no one waits anymore, a man
in a hard hat sings as he heaves
cardboard boxes onto the back of a truck
that will take them through a half-seen opening
to the trains. There used to be more baggage
and more men; now yellow light pools
around the desk, stays out of the corners.
He sings, I’m a train man,
I’m an Amtrak train man—
and another truck pulls up to be loaded.
More boxes, heavy paper bags
he tapes shut, labels with a handwritten tag
(no more Minneapolis in the drawer),
lifts onto the truck. Sings
I’m a train man
as another man comes in, wide-brimmed black hat
over his black dress coat, no work clothes today.
He still has hymns in his ears, this man.
Hums the final benediction, and carries
a bouquet of palms that he gives one by one
to the brothers who’d pulled the Sunday morning shift.
With boiling water, the dried flowers
will bloom again, pale green
and filigreed in the wire mesh of the strainer.
The tea is good for fevers, and to soothe anxiety
(if it is an anxiety that can be soothed).
Everyone in this town, the old man said,
wrapped in his coat even inside the store,
everyone is selling whatever they have.
His store the last one open on Main Street,
stocked from estate sales. Some days
he sells a brooch, a teacup, a nutcracker doll.
Lindens will give you shade,
give cover to the birds—
those glossy heart-shaped leaves—
and their flowers, white
and sticky, attract the bees.
There used to be lindens along Main Street.
Like everything else now, they’re gone.
At an estate sale, the shopkeeper found
a man older than he was
sitting in a back bedroom, the room
where he used to sleep. Now
strangers picked his things up, one by one,
and considered the cost.
Susanna Lang’s first collection of poems, Even Now, was published in 2008 by The Backwaters Press. A chapbook, Two by Two, was released in October 2011 from Finishing Line Press, and a new collection, Tracing the Lines, will be published by Brick Road Poetry Press in fall 2012. She has published original poems and essays, and translations from the French, in such journals as Little Star, New Letters, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, The Green Mountains Review, The Baltimore Review, Kalliope, Southern Poetry Review, World Literature Today, Chicago Review, New Directions, and Jubilat. Book publications include translations of Words in Stone and The Origin of Language, both by Yves Bonnefoy. She lives with her husband and son in Chicago, where she teaches in the Chicago Public Schools. For more information, refer to her website at www.susannalang.com.