The Train from Oxford
by Patricia L. Hamilton

The railcar is insufferably hot. No one told me
there’s no air conditioning because no one
owes me--a stranger--an explanation. Besides,
artificially cooled air is seldom needed here,
unlike where I come from. So I blot up
my trickles of sweat with a limp tissue
and peel shoes and socks from sore feet
chafed by unaccustomed miles of walking
amid jostling throngs of tourists chattering
a dozen languages. So much for dreaming
spires. As the train gains speed the scenery
greens and I lean back to let it flow by me,
a balm to over-stimulated senses, numb
from sorting through so much newness,
so much antiquity. Heat-hazy fields and trees
flash past, foreign, yet reminders of home.

By the time we reach Reading I’ve stopped
drawing comparisons. I push all thoughts
of boarding tomorrow’s plane and wrenching
the space-time continuum once again
from my mind and gaze at what's passing,
no longer sifting, only shedding, letting go.
Approaching Slough, I see him--
window open, arms resting along the frame,
his face beatific, like a saint’s, as he watches
trains from his fourth-story pensioner’s flat.
Delight in an afternoon’s pastime
has erased all care-lines. For an instant,
eternity. Then he is gone, a glimpse,
a vestige, but his the face I'll remember
out of thousands, a benediction
to carry me back home.

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