The Great Train Robbery

A. Van Jordan


So much to take in
but so hard to imagine now.
The close ups, the eyeliner,

spirit gum under moustaches,
all caught in the flash,
all revived in retinas. I look

and want to recall the first look
through the camera’s focus,
sharpening against Edwin Porter’s

eye socket, but the view offers
an innocence I cannot experience. I try
again wanting to recall the first glow

from the balcony, a year later,
sharpening against a Negro viewer’s
skin, but the view offers

a danger I no longer can face.
The story unfolds from another story
like all stories do. I don’t know

how the first light projected in the dark
struck a couple on their first date,
watching stories no one in attendance could say

they saw before, flashing in their eyes,
but, I do know about trying to capture
seduction before the train

comes into the station of my heart, faster,
closer, than seems possible…
And what about it? Don’t laugh at the fear

of the man sitting next to you in his seat, but
ask yourself, honestly, just how long you can
train your eye on your own near destruction?