Nureyev's Childhood: Listening for Trains
The dance of memory intertwines with sound –
the plangent first romance of distance haunted by the trains,
calling you to go somewhere… in my mind I travelled with them,
far beyond the Belaya, the rushing torrent’s bridge of iron,
bound for Budapest, Berlin, Paris, London, points unknown…
He remembers trains as always leaving, not arriving:
Ufa didn't qualify as somewhere one would want to come,
but as a place to dream about escaping, as in magic tales.
And yet the dancer, wakeful in a transitory hotel bed,
or stirring in the unfamiliar darkness of his seven homes,
listened for the rhythms that pre-dated those he made his own,
and heard a lonely locomotive measuring the versts of rails,
counting off the bars of sleepers with its hasty, nervous tread.
His voice betrays a roughness at the edge, the candour of his gaze
cannot disguise a private vision from the scan of probing lens,
searching out the Tartar child perched high on stony Salamat,
hearing winds that whispered of the steppe,
freshened by Urals breath – snow and resin
blending with aromas from communal stoves –
listening and watching for the trains.
Jena Woodhouse is the author/translator/compiler of eleven books and chapbooks across several genres, including six poetry titles, the most recent being "Dreams of Flight" (short stories, re-issued by Ginninderra, 2020, and "News from the Village: Travels in Rural Greece (Picaro Poets, 2021). Her poems have thrice been shortlisted in the Montreal International Poetry Competition.