paperback rider 6: railway line theory


A library employee has been explaining the theory of transmission lines to Millie, the librarian. Part 1 is here.

Every day was crumpled like a tissue,
starless rooms, vacant eyes,
until I cried out in a supermarket—

Check-out people, heed my warning:
concrete doesn’t show our true reflections,
it hides 
the motors that exhaust the immaterial,
the proton-powered furnaces of darkness,
and don’t trust geese.

I left of my own accord,
and decided I would take
a train to Sheridarp.

Millie seemed puzzled.
What happened to the transmission lines?

Didn’t you read the heading?

At the station, others waited—

one who’d wrung out every sentence,
every sigh, twisting it until
all silence was expelled,

one waiting for departures and arrivals,
for tears and an embrace,

one who’d come from x,
an algebraic beginning
in a hidden variable.

But no train stopped or even slowed,
no brakes squealed, no bursts of steam,
every engine oscillating, reciprocating air.

Millie yawned suspensefully.
And where, exactly, is Sheridarp?

Neither East nor West nor up nor down,
along no space- or time-like axis,
not within or without
any limitation, and there,
no dreams, no thoughts exist.

She handed me a book:
“The Unknowable: what we’ve learned so far.”

to continue

Do we know nothing about the ineffable, or do we know it’s ineffable?

fear not the waterfowl (part above), evolved from an original B&W drawing by Tamaya Garner with VEE, the visual evolution engine.

50 thoughts on “paperback rider 6: railway line theory

  1. Is Millie waiting on the correct platform? Is she even in the correct station? But then these wrong turns or places lead to discoveries… maybe if she waits long enough her train will come. My mind’s certainly travelled far as I was reading this… wonderful piece, as usual, Steve.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks, Annie. This is true, accidents that take us beyond our own thoughts of what is correct can lead to new things. On the other hand, perhaps sometimes… Once I was heading to Osaka airport with my daughter, and after more than an hour into the journey, I noticed the landscape outside was farmland. Fortunately a station appeared–we went back and manage to catch the flight.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Don’t trust geese? This is very funny. They seem so harmless although often they are not. ‘Departures and arrivals of tears and an embrace’ is another one of your wonderful flexibility with language as is ‘the unknowable of what we’ve learned so far’ Please keep writing these delightfully original poems.

    Liked by 1 person

    • No, they’re not, I agree with the protagonist. 🙂

      They say that knowing what to “borrow” is an important part of writing, and I’ve noticed that. The verse about departures and arrivals is adapted from the lyrics of one of my favorite Brazilian songs: Encontros e Despedidas (Meetings and Goodbyes). Thank you, Margaret.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Quite a paradox! I certainly don’t trust the geese who come hissing at me on my walks! As for a suspenseful yawn, I’ve been trying, but it’s beyond my scope. 🙂 Another conundrum I suspect. I fear the ping pong balls have fled to Sheridarp.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That seems to be the general consensus concerning geese, BG. 🙂 There may be a little suspense around someone desperately trying not to yawn, as I’ve noticed sometimes when I’m talking. But once they’ve yawned, the suspense is over. I haven’t forgotten the ping-pong balls, I just haven’t remembered them. 😸

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Looks a bit like a sea monster I saw, once. Those old map-fish-nosed things. I love the colors of the artwork, and it’s totally perfect for my semi-aware Sunday, today. Too tired and just not gonna catch up. Hope your day is restful and peaceful.


    • Yes, I think I know the drawings you mean. The creatures here were generated by the VEE software, so they’re pretty much whatever. They have some of the books and the shopping cart from the week before in there.

      Thank you Randy, I’ve had a few peaceful interludes and I hope you have as well. Hey, I do my stuff because I enjoy it, I post it because someone else might. If some time like now you do, that’s great. And that’s it!


    • sorry I can’t help you with that, Magarisa 🙂, and who knows what it’s actually liked there? I’ve found it’s kind of unsettling to get off a train at a strange station in a strange country. I suppose it depends on how much you like mysteries and surprises.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Too bad. 😉 If you get off a train at a strange station in a strange place BUT have someone pick you up who speaks your language, it’ll be fine. If not… maybe not. 🙂


  5. “everybody loves the sound of a train in the distance”…Paul Simon. You capture beautifully the ineffability of train stations and you are right about the untrustworthiness of geese.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Jim. Didn’t know that lyric, but I still remember when I was a school kid waking up at 6am on cold winter mornings, and hearing the faraway sound of a suburban train. Amazingly clear, given that they were several kilometres distant. Mind you, Sydney was a lot quieter back then.

      Liked by 1 person

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