A Sofa in the Forties
All of us on the sofa in a line, kneeling
Behind each other, eldest down to youngest.
Elbows going like pistons, for this was a train
And between the jamb-wall and the bedroom door
Our speed and distance were inestimable.
First we shunted, then we whistled, then
Somebody collected the invisible
For tickets and very gravely punched it
As carriage after carriage under us
Moved faster, chooka-chook, the sofa legs
Went giddy and the unreachable ones
Far out on the kitchen floor began to wave.
Ghost-train? Death-gondola? The carved, curved ends,
Black leatherette and ornate gauntness of it
Made it seem the sofa had achieved
Flotation. Its castors on tiptoe,
Its braid and fluent backboard gave it airs
Of superannuated pageantry:
When visitors endured it, straight-backed,
When it stood off in its own remoteness,
When the insufficient toys appeared on it
On Christmas mornings, it held out as itself,
Potentially heavenbound, earthbound for sure,
Among things that might add up or let you down.
We entered history and ignorance
Under the wireless shelf. Yippee-i-ay,
Sang "The Riders of the Range." HERE IS THE NEWS,
Said the absolute speaker. Between him and us
A great gulf was fixed where pronunciation
Reigned tyrannically. The aerial wire
Swept from a treetop down in through a hole
Bored in the window frame. When it moved in wind,
The sway of language and its furtherings
Swept and swayed in us like nets in water
Or the abstract, lonely curve of distant trains
As we entered history and ignorance.
We occupied our seats with all our might,
Fit for the uncomfortableness.
Constancy was its own reward already.
Out in front, on the big upholstered arm,
Somebody craned to the side, driver or
Fireman, wiping his dry brow with the air
Of one who had run the gauntlet. We were
The last thing on his mind, it seemed; we sensed
A tunnel coming up where we'd pour through
Like unlit carriages through fields at night,
Our only job to sit, eyes straight ahead,
And be transported and make engine noise.