Sunday, July 25, 2021

Vignette Noir

You walked through the steam in a tight black dress
and boarded the Pullman car,

puffs of white steam from the undercarriage
shrouding the train and your last look back.

A shrill European whistle
gave the locomotive its raison d’etre

as it crept into the switching yard,
headed for tracks looping

around mountains where you would apply lipstick
before having drinks with the Romanian.

Outside the station,
a streetlamp made slanting lines of rain visible

as far as the covered newsstand.
Headlines talked of wars and rumors of wars,

no nuance of why in the broad black ink.
Tightening my trench coat, I haled a cab,

opening the back door of the ’47 Packard
before the fin-like curb-splash

washed over the gray sidewalk
and the black wingtips you claimed

made me look like a diplomat.
At the apartment, I drank scotch

and listened to Mahler’s last symphony
before sleeping in the mattress

on which we had both created
the sag not deep enough to hold you.

~William Hammett

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  1. I like the atmosphere you create in this and the sad ending.

    Are European station whistles more shrill than those of other places?

  2. American trains have horns that sound like loud trumpet blasts. In Europe, at least as of a few decades ago, the engines had whistles instead of horns, and they were very high-pitched--at least in all the movies I've seen.