I thrill to the sight of docked freighters, their decks filled with timber or containers, ready to lift anchor and glide out to the open seas. I love waiting in run-down bus stations, watching as people meet and embrace, part with tears.

As a kid, I lay listening to the mournful whistle of freight trains hauling through the night. When I get big, I would tell the darkness, I’ll hop an old boxcar. I wanted to be a tramp, a wanderer, a rover with a stick on my shoulder and, tied to the end of it, a red kerchief with a pair of clean panties, a couple of books and some food. I had never seen a body of water bigger than Johnson’s pond, but like an old seadog stranded ashore, I muttered with Masefield, I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky.

One Christmas I got a pink plastic purse and a lockable, tin globe-bank, with a coin slot that sliced across Canada. I would sooner have died than priss around with a pink purse, and I quickly lost the bank key, but I memorized the name of every thread-thin river, every dot that was a South Sea island.

Now, in a rattletrap, half-empty lkarbus, pulling out of Agadir, I close my book and still my hunger with dates and cheese, a bottle of water. A young father across the aisle holds his son close, caresses the boy’s brow and cheeks. The man points out the window into the flat Moroccan landscape, naming things: goat, donkey, house, palm tree, flamingo, camel. The child repeats each word after the father, and they laugh softly. Something like a freight train hauls along the tracks of my heart.

About the author

Janice D. Soderling has published poems, prose and translations in hundreds of journals and anthologies. She became a time traveler via her latest collection,…

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Issue 03 · February 2009

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