by Alta Ifland
s the snowy years go by, I catch, through the clearing mist, a glimpse of the train. In the train, the passengers are crammed together in an obscene intimacy, with wicker baskets on their arms, out of which chickens are lifting their sleepy heads. The conductor arrives and passes a bottle of brandy around to the passengers, who are suddenly coming to life while the snow begins to melt and flow in muddy waves, and the drunken passengers jump in, one by one, and the conductor too.
Out of the wicker baskets come the chicks just conceived by the half-asleep chickens, and the chicks take the passengers' places, and the train whistles, and outside, water freezes again, and the snow is drifting again, taking the train with it.
In the train, the passengers are jostling each other, chicks are cheeping, the cries intertwine above the passengers' heads, and there they hang until the next whistle, until the moment when the train enters the icy tunnel, and then the cries fall back on the comings and goings of the chicks which are now chickens and of the passengers who have taken the chickens' places in the wicker baskets, and when the train comes out of the misty tunnel, under the first ray of sun the conductor's corpse can be seen, dead drunk under a flock of golden chicks.
Alta Ifland lives in California and writes in English and French. After teaching French in several American universities, she is now a full-time writer. Her prose poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Parthenon West Review, Pacific Review and The Bathyspheric Review.
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story copyright by author 2006 all rights reserved