I used to have a job in a warehouse and every morning before going to work I would stop at Union Station in Chicago, have my coffee there in the Great Hall, and then go to work. And I loved that Great Hall - I love the spaciousness of it, I love all the echoes coming and going. And it seems to me train stations are like narrative time manifest - time is different in a train station. I never know what to do in an airport - airports confuse me - time is weird in an airport. But time in a train station - I understand that and I understand the coming and going. I just love train stations.



Your attention please.
Train number 9, The Northern Zephyr,
destined for River’s End, is now boarding.
All ticketed passengers
please proceed to the gate marked Evening.

Your attention please. Train number 7,
Leaves Blown By, bound for The Color of Thinking
and Renovated Time, is now departing.
All ticketed passengers may board
behind my eyes.

Your attention please. Train number 4, The Twentieth Century,
has joined The Wind Undisguised to become The Written Word.

Those who never heard their names
may inquire at the uneven margin of the story
or else consult the ivy
lying awake under our open window.

Your attention please, The Music,
arriving out of hidden ground
and endlessly beginning, is now the flower,
now the fruit, now our cup and cheer
under branches more ancient
than our grandmother’s hair.

Passengers with memories of the sea
may board leisurely at any unmarked gate.

Fateful members of the foam may proceed to azalea.

Your attention please.
Under falling petals, never think about home.
Seeing begins in the dark.
Listening stills us.
Yesterday has gone
ahead to meet you.

And the place in a book a man stops reading
is the place a girl escaped
through her mother’s garden.

And between paired notes of the owl,
a boy disappeared. Search for him
goes on in the growing shadow of the clock.

And the face behind the clock’s face
is not his father’s face.

And the hands behind the clock’s hands
are not his mother’s hands.
All light-bearing tears may be exchanged
for the accomplished wine.

Your attention please. Train number 66,
Unbidden Song, soon to be
the full heart’s quiet, takes no passengers.

Please leave your baggage with the attendant
at the window marked Your Name Sprung from Hiding.

An intrepid perfume is waging our rescue.

You may board at either end of Childhood.

from Behind My Eyes (W W Norton, 2008), copyright 2008 by Li-Young Lee, used by permission of W W Norton & Company, Inc.

The free tracks you can enjoy in the Poetry Archive are a selection of a poet’s work. Our catalogue store includes many more recordings which you can download to your device.


Featured in the archive