Wednesday, August 25, 2004


(On the demolition of the Norfolk & Western terminal)

After our candlelight vigil, we returned the next day
for an unauthorized tour of the Art Deco terminal
that will be razed to make way for a jail.
We could not find a room with a window
overlooking the past that we knew.
Like prisoners of the twentieth-first century,
we went from office to office, from floor to floor,
looking for memories undusted by asbestos,
stepping over wires ripped from walls and ceilings,
stubbing toes on clunky beige telephones
that were once the last word in style.
Faded green files lay on the floor like salmon
that had spawned obsolete data and died
of irrelevance, shamed by change.
Schedules beneath our feet lay at the bottom
of a tributary that had run dry
when America, captivated by cloverleafs,
sold its soul to the infernal combustion engine,
and trains stopped carrying passengers
in love with rail, and salesmen, servicemen,
fathers and mothers, uncles and aunts –
when Americans of every kind –
with faith in the future, reverence for the past,
with destinations as close as the town up the line,
or as remote as places existing only in the mind,
departed for the last time from the terminal.
Departing is such sweet sorrow.

Robert Forrey