Monday, January 16, 2012

Kimberly Poitevin


You and I had walked along those tracks
just months before. The dead brown leaves
crunched beneath our fearless feet. Our path
glowed beneath the moonlight. We held hands.
Far off, a whistle blew its shrill alarm.
The train approached, then passed. We went our way.

It's summer when two more come by this way,
perhaps already doomed. The railroad tracks
lead from a party to her home. His arm
wraps close around her waist. This time the leaves
are lush and green. She tucks one of her hands
in his back pocket. In wait, the psychopath

watches their approach and blocks their path.
He takes their money, finds a cunning way
to use their belts and his to bind their hands
and feet. He boldly stops them in their tracks
with just an old screwdriver. When he leaves,
they work the knots, but he's back soon, one arm

cradling a large rock. She sees alarm
flash across her lover's face, the path
splatter red with blood and brain, believes
she’ll die here too. But no—he goes away
once he's raped and beaten her, backtracks
the way he came. On the news, her hands

still shake. As cameras pan her face, those hands,
I think of us, nineteen, of how your arm
wrapped round me then. I think of those tracks,
the ways we might have crossed the psychopath.
of how, unlike them, we'd have walked away
unscathed. The heart believes what it believes,

and stubbornly, naively, mine believes
so long as you're with me, his brutal hands
can never touch me. You always find a way
to subdue him, or maybe we disarm
this man together, choose a path
of more resistance: fight, then flee those tracks.

But when you free my hands, say, "Run away!"
I cannot leave without you. We must go arm in arm
or not at all. Our paths are joined. We follow in their tracks.

Alison Dasho reads "Railway Sestina":

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Kimberly confesses: "In 1997, two college students in Lexington, Kentucky were attacked near some train tracks by a serial killer dubbed 'The Railway Killer.' A one-time boyfriend and I had walked the same tracks together just months earlier. Back then I still believed that being accompanied by a man was enough to guarantee a woman's safety."

KIMBERLY POITEVIN lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts with her husband and two sons. Her poems have most recently appeared (or are forthcoming) in Poetry Quarterly, 14 by 14, elimae, and Mobius: The Journal of Social Change.


Kathleen A. Ryan said...

Such a chilling story. Moments like these never leave us. You've done a fine job, Kimberly.

Charles Rammelkamp said...

I'm a sucker for sestinas. This is powerful - a love story and a story of utter, brutal, pointless volence yoked together by the elegance of the form.