A Song for Love and the Tundra (A poem for Christmas)

A song for love and the tundra

It’s a cold night.
Each chilled breath vapour cloud
Looks like a cartoon think bubble.
Frost gnaws like a zombie rabbit.
Certain things shrivel up.
But I don’t mind.
I’m on the station platform,
The steel sided sleeper service carriage to my right,
Windows lit, inviting.

My cabin awaits to protect me
Against the endless harsh tundra.

I clamber back on board, the cold
Swirls around me, the ghosts of
Fussy butlers. I traverse the empty
Corridors, narrow, labyrinthine,
I’m a ferret in a metal warren,
The buffet car decorated in fairy lights and tinsel
As fellow passengers raise a toast to the holiday season,
To the northern lights, cheers!
To polar bears, cheers!
To the warmth of new friends, cheers!
And off we go again.

Flicker flakes of snow skitter the window
As I lie back on my cosy bunk,
Warmth radiating from mechanical vents
The breath of a tame robot,
Yet no comfort do I feel as thoughts
Sting more than the frost, the sudden idea,
That I
Am the only gay in a thousand mile radius.

No glitter on the tundra, no mirror disco balls,
No Hungry love puppies feeling mushy in the slush,
No buxom gay seeking company in the Hudson Bay Company,
No life no joy no dancing nothing, nothing nothing,
And then,
As if seeking comfort through the pursed queenly lips
Of those generations who quivered
In shacks and igloos and on sleds and kayak,
I picked up my phone
And logged in to Grindr
Hoping to find in this endless nothing
Love sublime.

Yet
The screen is blank.
Yet another silent night.

Through the cold deep night comes the mournful whistle
Of the lead locomotive, the railroad line a straight parallel beam
Across endless tundra, incredibly straight,
Unwavering, resolute in its adherence to what should be.

Bugger,
I whisper.

But then, oh, then!
A Christmas miracle!

A flicker of wifi some signal of the soul
As I stare out at the show,
My mobile phone is aglow!
And a lone face of beauty manifests on the screen,
It feels like a dream
He’s the cutest I’ve ever seen,
And his name is a cry for the centuries,
A beautiful poetry which lights up my day,
DildoSlut4000, and he’s only
One hundred and fifty metres away!

Hark! The herald angels sing,
Glory to this sexy thing!
Like three kinds following the yonder star
I get up and stand in the carriage of my car,
My Grindr app raised on high
Like a diamond in the sky,
App with royal beauty bright,
Come back to my cabin and spend the night!
Like lovers of old we’ll dance and pray,
He’s only one hundred and fifty metres away!

The night breaths a chill yet the warmth within
Propels me from my cabin,
Along the carpeted corridor as the train rocks,
Eager, phone raised,
Past windows still and each a cold black canvas
With flickers of frost on the frames,
Guided by this handsome avatar and I run
As the metres tick down, one hundred and fifty,
One hundred and forty, one thirty five,
Good evening Mrs Higgins, yet, it is chilly tonight,
One hundred and thirty, one twenty five . .

As I hurry in through my heart beats insane
In time with the onerous chuffing of the train
And a sleigh bell jingle from the depths of my brain.
One hundred metres remain!

Through the buffet I go and the train begins to slow,
As o envisage his kiss in this land filled with snow,
My own Santa and his sack and his jovial ho ho,
This long cruel slog to be with him and his Yule log,
That we might dance divine, our hearts entwined,
That I might enjoy
My very own feast of Steven,
Fifty metres, thirty, and ten,
I check my phone again.
The night is dark by my heart is aflame.

But what’s this?
I’ve run out of train . .

A locomotive cul de sac,
Yet I can’t go back.
No sexy stranger, no gay in a manger
Do I see in this empty carriage,
Just my own reflected in the dark, dark glass,
Looking out on a world of endless snows,
The train, it slows, it slows, it stops.

Ladies and gentlemen.
We’ll be stopping here at Elbow Junction
For around half an hour or so.
It may be called Elbow Junction
But the joint is hardly rocking.
Stretch your legs if you like.
Watch out for ice.

A desolate scene, this
Mid journey pit stop.
A frost sparkled platform
In a landscape bereft of hope.
The train, a ticking tensing metal beast,
An eerie interloper,
Metal sides shining in a faint lunar glow.
I clamber down, my phone throwing out
It’s own corona of electric light.

A wooden hut, a shack, a cabin, mismatched timbers,
Makeshift windows and a slanting front door
Shrinks back from the platform as if afraid, yet
No station building is this, a light within
Hints at some kind of life, domesticity
In the frozen north.
The door opens and any hope
That this might be the home of
DildoSlut4000 evaporates as
An old man shuffles forwards,
Long flowing beard and the kind of face
That looks like it needs ironing.

Sayeth he,

I’m a track side shack dweller,
Yessiree I am,
A track side shack dweller,
Big beardy man.
I’m a track side shack dweller,
Never going back, fella.
City’s full of crack sellers
A track side shack dweller,
Is what I am now.

Hey there young man,
Why do you look so glum?
You’re not the one who’s cold all day
Everything’s gone numb.
Living in a track side shack
Certainly ain’t fun
Hey there young man,
Why do you look so glum?

I’m a track side shack dweller,
And you’re a tourist guy.
Off to see the polar bears?
And really, god knows why.
What’s that that you got there,
The things you city folk buy!
An app, you say? Let’s have a look,
I don’t want to pry . . .

Oh . . .

A toothless grin from my ancient companion,
A scratch of his unkempt hair, a rustle as he
Nustles the stubble of his beard,
He shuffles In a half circle, comes back and looks again.

Who is it?, I ask, suddenly perplexed.
Now there’s a face, says he, I haven’t seen
For quite a while.

Have you ever felt magic on the breeze in the night?
When the only sound is the majestic barking of polar bears,
Or geese in flight,
The lonesome whistle of distant trains?
When the jiggling wiggling brilliance of the aurora boealis
Seem scant compensation for an existence which drains
Every last hope of love?
Have you ever slept fitful as the frost creeps in,
Shrunk back from the world beneath a pile of bear skin,
Felt the abject loneliness of no one else around,
Startled, alert, at the slightest sound?
Have you ever felt the man sized gap where love should be?

Past midnight now, it’s Christmas Eve.
And that, my young friend, is the train driver,
Steve.

He told me he’d been taken off his route,
He told me this
Just before he gave me the boot.
His face may be, but his behaviour ain’t cute.

At this, like a phantom, a man obsessed,
My elderly companion runs down the track to the engine car,
And I follow, careful not to slip on the ice
Catching up just as he bangs on the locomotive door,
His fist a blur, shouting obscenities into the night.
The door opens, and there he stands,
DildoSlut4000.

You bastard! You fiend!, the shack dweller yells.
I don’t understand why you had to lie!
The nights I’ve spent, wondering why
You’d just disappear,
And twice a week these ghost trains would halt
And I’d stay in bed, my heart would jolt
On hearing your horn in the middle of the night.

(And also, I give a little wave.
Hi!)

He steps down from the cab, this saintly man,
His face a benevolent mask, the symmetry of his features,
The classical beauty of his earlobes, he
Stands forlorn before the bearded individual,
And then, like lovers lost, all rancour forgotten,
They throw their arms around one another,
A smothering of sobs and limbs and apologies.

(And also, I give a little wave.
Hi!)

Through the still of the night
comes the cry.
Allllll aboard!
And I clamber up to the carriage
Feeling within a renewed understanding
Of the world.

In the warmth of my cabin, I let out a sigh,
It is not for me to ponder on why
But revel in a world in which love
Is always worth the try.

We pull out from Elbow Junction, and pick up speed,
And soon into a flurry of snow we proceed this Christmas Eve,
And sleep begins to overtake me,
And the miles seem somehow less empty
Than they had been.
For Christmas is a time of togetherness,
Nevertheless, I feel hardly blessed ,
And as I undress I feel bereft.

But simultaneously lifted.
For who knows what led to
This romance,
The track side shack dweller
And DildoSlut4000,
Spinning their love into the winter gloom,
Two hearts empty that both found room,
A soul afire in this great northern sublimity,
Then it could also happen to me?

And as Christmas Eve asserts through the night,
My senses take flight, and I dance an inner dance
Happy on love that it should find a chance,
Even in this ceaseless gloom,
A lonely cabin,
A tiny room,
A cold steel train
And the northern lights a flicker.

Two souls reconnected after years apart.
How glad I was I’d played my part.

(2019)

Author: Robert Garnham

Performance and spoken word artist.

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