History Lesson on the Night Train

Prompt: Also curious about the whole background of the specials. by pygmymuse. Welcome

So I was reading too much in Poetry Magazine and this first line came into my mind—then kept going.


Liana Mir

Series Listing

16 — 02. Summer

When the Clock Strikes Midnight

16 — 02. Summer through 03. Autumn

Wake and Thrive

16 — 03. Autumn through 17 — 01. Spring

Its Own Absolution

16 — 03. Late Autumn

After the Grief

16 — 03. Late Autumn

Battery Acid

17 — 02. Summer

Accounting for Redemption

17 — 02. Summer

Counting Heartbeats

18 — 01. Spring

Song Between the Waking and the Dreaming

20 — 04. Winter

Echoes of Anchor Lost

21 — 01. Spring

Don’t Remind Me That It’s Over

21 — 02. Summer

Welcome

21— 02 Summer through 22 — 01 Spring

Name Me Another (or Glass Angel, Redux)

22 — 01. Spring

Glass Angel

22 — 01. Spring

Pause the Sonata

22 — 02. Summer

Without a Reason

22 — 03. Autumn

Learning Legato

23 — 02. Summer

Acceptable Cost

23 — 02. Summer

History Lesson on the Night Train

23 — 03. Autumn

Abyss Looking Back

23 — 03. Autumn

Collateral Damage

23 — 03. Autumn

Five Reasons I Love You

23 — 03. Autumn

Little Things

23 — 03. Autumn

Owning Beauty

23 — 04. Winter

Dream the Dance

23 — 04. Winter

Snow Day

24 — 02. Summer

As the River Breathes

AU 21 — 04. Winter

Normal written in coffee grounds

History Lesson on the Night Train

she was old, her lines were tired, but her eyes were bright— / to ask what it is, this marking down of history / like stainless steel tines pressed down into meat

23 — 02. Summer
Kingdoms and Thorn Science Fiction
Poem

I saw you on the night train to Glaston,

pencil in your hand and marking history

as it passed in scattered beams breaking

darkness under scattered stars.

A woman sat in the seat before you, facing you—

she was old, her lines were tired, but her eyes were bright—

to ask what it is, this marking down of history

like stainless steel tines pressed down into meat

so you can taste it. And you looked at her and blinked.

You did not see the woman sitting in the seat behind you,

back to your back, hand stretched upon your image

on nighttime glass—

she was young in her own image, but

reflections cannot be trusted in the mirror or the glass,

not like pencils marked in primary accounts,

not like tales of night; no,

she was only visible in nighttime glass,

a dangerously weak reflection covering reflection

with young-looking fingers—

as you blinked at a woman

not her.

Your voice stuttered like the flicker of bright candles,

not like your marking hand so steady,

as bright beams breaking through the darkness

on the night train to Glaston when it jerked to a halt

and we waited in our seats as you blinked at the woman—

What is it, this writing? this marking down of history,

this making now of histories, personal—

who waited.

The jerk made us silent, imposing like shadows

beamed through the darkness,

beamed through the bright beams

of Republic enforcers, bound by their treaties,

by softly, darkly whispered promises under starry nights.

You did not see me—teller, taker—

on the night train to Glaston as Republic men

in dark blue coats beneath their bright and yellow beams

of light and ’neath the starry skies of darkness

boarded and asked with the woman facing you—they asked,

What is it, this marking down of history

like tines of heartless steel that men may taste

and even remember? What is this, this writing?—

And you answered because you were a man of them,

a man of the Republic in this new, most brave of ages,

because you carried your credentials

as a marker down of history,

because you smoothed over their lies and made them

sink into my gullet like their words were only history—

We have the right to check this train;

we have the right to check your passage

(though we live in new and braver ages,

where the cities are the kingdoms

and the kingdoms are the cities

and they had no right to ask of us who rode the train).

You did not see me—thief, remaker—

or my struggle deep beneath this violated skin,

could not see the ash that marked these fingers

staring into nighttime glass at your reflected face

or feel the way I saw you with two gazes—mine, not mine

(they do not tell you this when speaking of the ashen:

they never told us what they did not know, that men

and woman whose skin had learned to heal,

whose skin had learned to kill,

were always riding on a two-way street).

You did not see me breathng in,

then breathing out—

I felt I could not breathe, not in this skin,

for it was mine

but the words bubbling up within my throat and brimming

like the loss of all that meat I tasted in your histories,

it was not mine; it was a woman’s—

she was not facing you or sitting on this

train beneath Republic beams and scattered stars

and darkened skies as you marked history

with your pencil and she joined in asking you,

What is it, this marking down of histories, personal?

The ash was in your pencil, on my skin—

I could not tell myself it different,

that maybe I had met the woman elsewhere,

elsewhen, not knowing I would come to sit a woman

back to your back, staring you in the glass;

I could not tell myself the other,

that maybe I had lost my blood in gutting dark Republic notions

and a woman poured her life like ash into my skin:

I could not hate you, could not love you

(one less one is perfectly equal to zero), could not banish

from this violated ashen skin the way she knew your half

reflection and knew you were a man of the Republic

that smoothed the lies and marked the histories in primary accounts—

and made them true.

You did not see me—blooded, breaker—

smoothing down my skirt with the same hand

that smoothed down memory of another

and smoothed the glass to see you better,

that smoothed the lies back down their gullets

and shattered their installation

earlier in the night—

for we must keep our treaties

bound on their enforcers

and keep them from the wilderness they used to own,

the nights they used to claim;

this is the night train to Glaston,

of Glaston,

not the Thorn Republic,

not their yellow beams.

And what made me better than these men whose eyes,

gliding off of women—one old, one rather young—

neither dressed for nighttime raids and both

with perfect passage papers and the perfect alibis?

What made me and mine right to force our will

on your Republic, on the space between the cities,

and forbid you of your land?

My claim was in the blood—

have you listened to the ring of steel and marked their

histories on your ashen’s skin?

have you seen us cold and splintered, spilt? do you

understand her name?—

for I am blood spilt from the children that they slaughtered

to make the living weapons we have been,

and I am blood shed from parents

killed to take their daughters, take their sons,

take their twins;

I am blood from all our victims, all they who fell beneath the

outstretched hand of the Republic, they who fell beneath the

laws they could no other way enforce,

and I am blood from all the handlers

who could not enforce against their weapons,

us, the monstrous children.

My claim was in the blood,

for I had shed no blood that night

when I shattered their installation, when I

cracked it into pieces, when I

broke their walls in pieces and

my claim was that their men

could don their dark blue coats, step out into the darkness

of a starry night and stop the night train to Glaston

search among the markers down of histories,

the women old and rather young,

and ask me questions they had trained me once to answer

without answering—and live.

My claim was that I saw you on the night train to Glaston,

with another woman living underneath my skin—

(for when she poured her life in ashes

into my life in blood,

I lived)

a woman I know loves you,

a woman who would stare in your reflection—

and could have challenged all these men in their blue coats,

brought chaos on the men of the Republic and the cities

to defend my life, to finish what I started;

and I was on the train to Glaston.

I saw you, pencil in your hand and marking history;

you did not see me—teller, taker—on the train.

#


Kingdoms and Thorn Science Fiction

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6 Responses to History Lesson on the Night Train

  1. Kabobbles says:

    Is there any chance of getting a prose version of the information in this?

    I tried, really, and reread it several times, but my brain short-circuited the way it does, and I don't get it. I don't. It's not anything I think you could make clearer in the poem, it's just me and my utter failure to comprehend poetry.

    • Liana says:

      Going to make a prompt of it because at this point, I haven't the foggiest how to write Teller-Taker in prose.

      • Kabobbles says:

        You don't necessarily have to use Teller-Taker to do it. I'd be fine with it as boring as a history lesson just spelled out and detailed. I want it more to understand the setting than to have a novel of it, I promise.

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