ON WHY I NO LONGER SIT AT THE WINDOW SEAT ON A TRAIN
By Kelly Cressio-Moeller
Germany was like a step-mother: utterly familiar, utterly despised. ~ Erica Jong
It’s a good day for a lie-down, overcast and
wet-wooled – even the rain wants to be horizontal.
I am day-dreaming of goose down when I
enter the train, scoot into an open seat,
press my cheek against the streaked window.
The station’s soothing voice announces,
Zurückbleiben bitte, someone runs in just before
the doors close, slams me against the side
of the compartment, takes a lungful of my air.
In an accent foreign as my own, he asks
my name, if I “want some fun” back
at his room. I buy time before the next stop,
tell him I’m “Whitney from America”
(anything but my real name in his mouth).
Now he locks his arm through mine and thick
fingers jab my ribs. His leg, an anchor –
his pocked face smirks like he’s already
notched his belt.
I imagine the defence move my brother
taught me where I smash my palm heel into
some asshole’s nose, shifting bone into brain.
(Where is my Siegfried in this country of the
“Nibelungenlied”. What would Kriemhild do?)
My eyes ransack the forest of businessmen,
cutpurses, hausfraus, the heroin chic: rows of
enameled faces, cow-dumb, indifferent as teeth.
Let the Ausländer fight it out!
Thigh-grab, elbow-jab, hand-slap – his broken
English splinters the air. Whitney Houston
in my head singing “I Will Always Love You” on
some godforsaken loop as I mentally run through
my list of German imperatives: Hilfe! Polizei!
Vergewaltigung! (a word that takes longer to say
than the act it defines). I backhand him across
the mouth, escape before the doors slam.
He’s waving (waving!) through the glass,
a blurry fat-lipped sneer retreating – the air
staccatoed with rasps of my breath. It begins
to hail marbles (even the gods are throwing stones),
feathers or lightening bolts would feel just the same.
Only later with candlelight und Butterkuchen,
do I re-surface to Vivaldi’s soaring strings on the radio.
I mention my morning combat-commute.
My host shrugs his shoulders before loading
the Meissen with another helping of Schadenfreude.
He says, Da muβ man durch : ‘one must go through it’ –
as if it were a tunnel, something to be run through.
** The line What shall I wish for myself? is a reworking Mary Oliver’s line What shall I wish for, for myself?
Kelly Cressio-Moeller has new work forthcoming in Radar Poetry and has been previously published at Boxcar Poetry Review, burntdistrict, Crab Orchard Review, Gargoyle, Poet Lore, Southern Humanities Review, THRUSH Poetry Journal, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and ZYZZYVA among others. Her poems have been nominated for three Pushcart Prizes, Best New Poets, and Best of the Net. She is an Associate Editor at Glass Lyre Press. Visit her website at www.kellycressiomoeller.com.
Editor’s Note: During the dark days this November I delved into poetry as a kind of antidote, and in this way I arrived at today’s poem. Incredibly timely, it speaks to an experience that is all too common and far too marginalized. “I moved on her like a bitch,” America’s President-elect said, “I did try and fuck her,” he said, “Grab them by the pussy,” he said; “You can do anything.” And I thought, “anything but my real name in his mouth.” I thought, “even the gods are throwing stones.” I thought this poem. And those who have no idea what this poem is about, those who do not have to regularly question their safety, those who are unsympathetic to this experience– “one must go through it,” those people say. “[A]s if it were a tunnel, something to be run through.”