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.

Abstract Architecture

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.