The Orient Express by Randall Jarrell

One looks from the train
Almost as one looked as a child. In the sunlight
What I see still seems to me plain,
I am safe; but at evening
As the lands darken, a questioning
Precariousness comes over everything.
Once after a day of rain
I lay longing to be cold; after a while
I was cold again, and hunched shivering
Under the quilt's many colors, gray
With the dull ending of the winter day,
Outside me there were a few shapes
Of chairs and tables, things from a primer;
Outside the window
There were the chairs and tables of the world ...
I saw that the world
That had seemed to me the plain
Gray mask of all that was strange
Behind it -- of all that was -- was all.
But it is beyond belief.
One thinks, "Behind everything
An unforced joy, an unwilling
Sadness (a willing sadness, a forced joy)
Moves changelessly"; one looks from the train
And there is something, the same thing
Behind everything: all these little villages,
A passing woman, a field of grain,
The man who says good-bye to his wife --
A path through a wood all full of lives, and the train
Passing, after all unchangeable
And not now ever to stop, like a heart --
It is like any other work of art,
It is and never can be changed.
Behind everything there is always
The unknown unwanted life.

by Randall Jarrell

Other poems by 'Randall Jarrell'

The Death Of The Ball Turret Gunner

Hope

Losses

The Olive Garden

A Sick Child

Eighth Air Force

The Woman At The Washington Zoo

Cinderella

The Refugees

The Black Swan

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