Monday, April 14, 2008

BillyBlog's Favorite Poems, #17 ("One Train May Hide Another" by Kenneth Koch)

Poem # 17 is from Kenneth Koch. Of course, my appreciation for the late poet was enhanced by this tale.

One of my favorite pieces by him is "To Jewishness" (posted here). However, for the sake of conformity, I have selected one of his most widely-known poems, "One Train May Hide Another".

One Train May Hide Another

(sign at a railroad crossing in Kenya)

In a poem, one line may hide another line,

As at a crossing, one train may hide another train.

That is, if you are waiting to cross

The tracks, wait to do it for one moment at

Least after the first train is gone. And so when you read

Wait until you have read the next line--

Then it is safe to go on reading.

In a family one sister may conceal another,

So, when you are courting, it's best to have them all in view

Otherwise in coming to find one you may love another.

One father or one brother may hide the man,

If you are a woman, whom you have been waiting to love.

So always standing in front of something the other

As words stand in front of objects, feelings, and ideas.

One wish may hide another. And one person's reputation may hide

The reputation of another. One dog may conceal another

On a lawn, so if you escape the first one you're not necessarily safe;

One lilac may hide another and then a lot of lilacs and on the Appia

Antica one tomb

May hide a number of other tombs. In love, one reproach may hide another,

One small complaint may hide a great one.

One injustice may hide another--one colonial may hide another,

One blaring red uniform another, and another, a whole column. One bath

may hide another bath

As when, after bathing, one walks out into the rain.

One idea may hide another: Life is simple

Hide Life is incredibly complex, as in the prose of Gertrude Stein

One sentence hides another and is another as well. And in the laboratory

One invention may hide another invention,

One evening may hide another, one shadow, a nest of shadows.

One dark red, or one blue, or one purple--this is a painting

By someone after Matisse. One waits at the tracks until they pass,

These hidden doubles or, sometimes, likenesses. One identical twin

May hide the other. And there may be even more in there! The obstetrician

Gazes at the Valley of the Var. We used to live there, my wife and I, but

One life hid another life. And now she is gone and I am here.

A vivacious mother hides a gawky daughter. The daughter hides

Her own vivacious daughter in turn. They are in

A railway station and the daughter is holding a bag

Bigger than her mother's bag and successfully hides it.

In offering to pick up the daughter's bag one finds oneself confronted by

the mother's

And has to carry that one, too. So one hitchhiker

May deliberately hide another and one cup of coffee

Another, too, until one is over-excited. One love may hide another love

or the same love

As when "I love you" suddenly rings false and one discovers

The better love lingering behind, as when "I'm full of doubts"

Hides "I'm certain about something and it is that"

And one dream may hide another as is well known, always, too. In the

Garden of Eden

Adam and Eve may hide the real Adam and Eve.

Jerusalem may hide another Jerusalem.

When you come to something, stop to let it pass

So you can see what else is there. At home, no matter where,

Internal tracks pose dangers, too: one memory

Certainly hides another, that being what memory is all about,

The eternal reverse succession of contemplated entities. Reading

A Sentimental Journey look around

When you have finished, for Tristram Shandy, to see

If it is standing there, it should be, stronger

And more profound and theretofore hidden as Santa Maria Maggiore

May be hidden by similar churches inside Rome. One sidewalk

May hide another, as when you're asleep there, and

One song hide another song; a pounding upstairs

Hide the beating of drums. One friend may hide another, you sit at the

foot of a tree

With one and when you get up to leave there is another

Whom you'd have preferred to talk to all along. One teacher,

One doctor, one ecstasy, one illness, one woman, one man

May hide another. Pause to let the first one pass.

You think, Now it is safe to cross and you are hit by the next one. It

can be important

To have waited at least a moment to see what was already there.

You can read the poem and hear Koch reading it here.

Previous Favorite Poems for National Poetry Month:

#18 - "Poem (Lana Turner Has Collapsed!) by Frank O'Hara (with Audio)
#19 - "Crumbs" by Hal Sirowitz (Audio Added)
#20 - "This Is Just to Say" by William Carlos Williams
#21 - "They Feed They Lion" by Philip Levine
#22 - "Looking at Kilauea" by Garret Hongo
#23 - "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" by Randall Jarrell (Audio Added)
#24 - A Handful of Richard Brautigan
#25 - "A Buddha in the Woodpile" by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
#26 - "Separation" by W.S. Merwin
#27 - "The Flea" by John Donne
#28 - Poem Twenty from Pablo Neruda's Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair
#29 - "Magpie's Song" by Gary Snyder
#30 - "Eunoia" by Christian Bok

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