Sunday, June 19, 2005

Travelling by Rail

Springfield MA 9:08

There is no better way to look into God’s eyes than traveling by train. I have taken commuter trains all my life but I have never until now ridden train from one city to another. The 9:05 lurched out of Springfield just a few minutes late. The scenes outside the picture window next to my seat began to change.

The Connecticut River begins its dance with me; a game of hide and seek disappearing and then reappearing behind a thick lush tree line. This blue-eyed river begins its dance with me as a marvel at a landscape that is at once both rural and urban.

The flowers have an iron look and the color is predominantly rust. The jagged blue stones supporting the rails seem to absorb the reckless heat outside the car. The temperature is in the nineties and high humidity.

It amazes me that people still travel by train. It’s a cliché to talk about the journey being as important as the destination but it is true. There is a sense of journey here as is missing when one travels by plane or even bus. These forms of transport make one feel more like cattle. Moving at hyperchronologic rates is efficient and even necessary, but I swear that molecules in my body are rearranged when I travel by plane.

Train travel is over one hundred years old but there is something about NOT traveling on roads designated for cars or bikes or even pedestrians. In a train you move where the rails take you. There is a great sense of letting go that is not found in other forms of travel.

Windsor Locks – 9:28

When traveling by train, there is no need for a movie. For me, the landscape is a never ending movie. I wish I knew more about wildflowers in New England. There is this gentle and simple white blossom around us everywhere that just kisses my window. As we tumble along I notice the hypnotic effect of the flowers being so close as we pass. These pants stop growing just at the point where the train passes. There is an implied learning. This is intelligent life along these rails.

The train whistle is a scream almost bragging: “Get out of my way, I’m not stopping!” as we pass through small hamlets and towns at seventy or eighty miles an hour I would guess. It’s a youthful sound and such an old technology.

Hartford – 9:40

The train stops to pick up people as I spy a woman with burl wood colored nails get on. The color complements the rust color so pervasive around the tracks, old metal tools, rusted rails just sitting, old fences left to rot. At one point all these things had a purpose but now they are just left. There are stories everyone around the rails.

Skunk cabbage grows everywhere and a form of wild arbor vitae with their edges browned by the train being so close almost swallows up the rail at one point.

The river plays hide and seek again. The rocking of the car settles me; the quiet in me is deep and almost purposeful.

Meriden – 10:08

We always seem to short change time. I have come to this conclusion. In our mission to never waste a single moment we let the great vat of what is meaningful spill all over. Train travel is like massage, I think. Sometimes we pay money to have a masseuse put our muscles into configurations that our bodies remember as familiar, a natural state of relaxation. Train travel does the same for our spirit. It allows me to accept time as the natural condition of space and distance.

We have screwed ourselves by denying this.

Wallingford – 10:17

I can see other trains now and cars with graffiti, “tagging” they call it. Michelangelo painted ceilings, these kids “tag” cars. Moving art makes art moving – I try to think of some promotional slogan for the urban art form.

New York is closer and the haze is dense now. I can feel the city the way the train starts and stops now. The way the passengers look more commuter-like wearing those faces I used to wear.

New Haven – 10:35

I have dared to let the sexual swaying of the car seduce me; the Doppler effect of background noises as they pass my window adds to a composition created by the train. The movement of the wheels travel through my seat, into my spine and into my brain.

This used to be the fastest way to travel, I think. Perhaps there was someone writing about the loss of romance as the train replaced the horse and buggy or the stage coach.

All change involves trade offs. At one point, train travel may be been looked at as the downfall of man. Others saw it as a great time saver. Both views are correct, of course.
Anything that brings real advancement is by nature both a blessing and a curse.

We stop here to change engines. There is a flat silence as the doors open, and passengers move in an out, to smoke, to stretch their legs. Try that on a plane.

New Rochelle – 11:05

We have crossed over the mouth of the river and I can see the Long Island Sound outside the opposite window. We are bee-lining it right to city. We stop for a long time at New Rochelle as we wait for other trains to come northbound on the track.

Still, I am just like everyone else, impatient, waiting. But when the train is moving I can feel the blood in my body moving faster.

We start to enter longer and longer tunnels. New York is near.

New York City, Penn Station – 12:30

We round some large curve and I can see the gray noble outline of the city. I swear the city appears to have her arms wide open as the rails all seem to lay straight into her.

I am gliding into the city on steel – a city whose very skeleton is made of steel. Like a salmon swimming upstream I feel a sense of being home. There is an instinctual sense of belonging that overpowers me.

I am home and saddened, all at once.

M C Biegner 6/2005

POEM - Blue Eyed River

How you love to tease me
Oh Blue eyed river I see
Ribbon of god’s tears
Umbilical to earth
How your brackish water
Covers your marshy green lap
How you love to tease me
Dear Blue eyed River I see.

How you love to hide and make me seek
Oh Blue Eyed River I see
Great strength below
Denies your exquisite calm face
Flash me white capped teeth
How you love to duck down below
The low plunging tree line
Dear Blue Eyed River I see.

How you push the land wide for me
Oh Blue Eyed River I see
With sanguine grace
The wild ocean turns you loose
How you put things into their proper place
Grief and joy arranged just so, just so
How you push the land wide for me
Dear Blue Eyed River I see.

How you groan at my parting
Oh Blue eyed River I see
While I beg for azure eyes
Like yours that weep for me
How you cry to behold me
As I try to behold you.
How you groan at my parting
Dear Blue Eyed River I see.

M C Biegner

Thursday, June 16, 2005

POEM - In A Field of Dandelion

Fuzzy seeds tilt back their heads
And sniff the wind,
Then fly off for miles
While in fields of dozing dandelions,
the sun’s florid grace;
rests among the weeds
where God rests his head and feet.

M C Biegner

Friday, June 10, 2005

POEM: Who Spilled the Spelt?*

"Who spilled the spelt?"
asked the cross dressing celt,
as he tugged his silk stockings
that made his legs feel like felt.

Not the Kung Fu Master with the zebra striped belt.
"Why, I don't even know how the damn word is spelled!"

"Who spilled the spelt?"
spat the lipstick wearing celt,
as he clutched his sequined handbag
all golden and svelte.

Not the Pirate with earrings
from dubloons he had melt,
"Why, I don't even know how the damn word is spelled!"

"Then who spilled the spelt?"
begged the sobbing young celt
bemoaning the hand that he had been dealt.

Not the priest wearing pumps
fixing his girdle as he knelt,
"Why, I don't even know how the darn word is spelled!"

"Who spilled the spelt?"
whispered the quiesced celt,
whose face was so drab it wanted to melt.

"I did!" cried the large martini guzzling Smelt,
who wore opera gloves on his fins and a faux raccoon pelt.
"I had no idea what it was or how it was spelled!"

So if you need a moral to be dealt,
and want to know who spilled your spelt
better make sure that your smelt
knows how spelt should be spelled.

M C Biegner

* - Note: spelt is a hardy European wheat. It can also refer to an old spelling of the past tense of the verb "to spell" but that is not its context here... or is it?

Thursday, June 09, 2005

POEM: Reach and Unwrap

When I reach
Do I reach for what is missing in me?
Do I aim to unwrap
The shape of a heart?

Reach and unwrap –
What have I kept hidden from view?

Would you unwrap it if you knew the pain
That would follow?
Would you reach for it,
If you knew how much you hated how it felt?

Knowing is nothing,
Feeling is everything.

Give back the knowing,
Toss aside the words,
Put back the rational,
Expunge the logical,
And things that are sequential.

You and I have not even begun
To explore the
Boggy, damp fields
Of feeling.

M C Biegner

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Reconciling the Internet

Why hasn’t the Catholic Church leveraged the power of the internet? Before you scoff, let me paint a picture. Imagine a new revised Vatican web site. Given the shortage of priests, the internet would be a blessing to some of those overworked priests and allow some of the more mundane ministerial tasks to be automated.

First, you would be required to log in to the web site. This would use SSL security and allow the Vatican to start creating mailing lists or better yet, pop up site targets for Catholic pop ups. These could remind Catholics of holy days of obligation and provide advertising revenue for things like Atkins friendly hosts for eucharist. (How about this as a slogan: “When you want the host without the most carbs…” “for those who want to take care of body AND soul”.

Logging in could be personalized with the use of cookies: “Good morning . It’s been ~Three Months~ since your last confession”.

Penance. Confession. Here is where the web would be perfect. It would remove the fear of confessing your sins and make it open to everyone twenty four by seven. It would start with a link asking you to click on the type of priest you want to “hear” your confession.

You would need to read and click the I ACCEPT the legal verbiage that is common with web sites these days. “All confessors subscribe to the divinity of Jesus Christ and the Virginity of his mother Mary. Furthermore, users of this site believe that the Roman Catholic Faith believe that this is the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic faith…blah, blah, blah”. You get the idea. Click the box if you agree.


Web designers could develop logic that would apply based on the type of priest you choose. This more or less equates to the way penance and other teachings of the church are applied, taught and accepted now.

The internet is the perfect vehicle for the sacrament of reconciliation since it provides that anonymity that is required to allow people to confess their most hidden failings- all in secret and with the best security available. This is to say nothing of the benefit of trust issues which many people seem to have spilling their guts out to someone via an instant message chat session, but draw a complete blank when dealing face to face with a real human.


This last link would send you off to some of the more gut wrenching writings of St. Paul and some of the more stringent Vatican encyclicals. Soon, that thought you had today about the cute guy or girl in accounting that you flirted with will turn into abject remorse about the very fact that you even have genitalia.

Before long you are typing away at a host of sins, some that you never really knew were sins!

If you click on the link about not being sure whether it was a mortal or venial sin, you will be prompted with these sorts of questions:


Answer that one even by mistake, and the logic of the web program records the sin. (Ironically, questions about pedophilia have been removed from the web site.)

All around the page there would be colorful icons of the each of the apostles. When you click on the link, a media player or real audio or quicktime audio clip would start (depending on your platform) explaining each one of the Ten Commandments. Meanwhile a banner would crawl across the bottom of the site real slow: “SEX IS ONLY FOR PROCREATION.”

Upon clicking the SUBMIT button, the entire confession is checked for vulgarity, political correctness and a final warning page. Finally your penance would pop up: PLEASE SAY 10 HAIL MARYS, 2 OUR FATHERS AND 5 GLORY BE’S. PLEASE PRINT THIS PAGE OUT FOR YOUR RECORDS the page would read.

Of course this would all be in multiple languages.

The internet would be perfect for this. Upgrade those servers at the Vatican. I can see the people lining up already. Next: Holy Communion via the internet. No lines, no waiting. Can’t wait for the future to get here!

M C Biegner

Friday, June 03, 2005

POEM: The Orange Wheelbarrow

I bought an orange wheelbarrow today,
With burnished oak handles,
And large, arrogant tire -

When I use it in the rain,
I wear a green slicker
With deep pockets for my pink, raw hands –

I aim to purchase earnest red boots
With loops at the top to pull them on
So that I may dance
through runny wet soil.

When I turn my face
To bloated white clouds
Dreams are hauled away like fruit
Over distant blue green seas;
I allow the yellow sun
To run down my cheeks,
To make the space my heart so needs.

Today I bought an orange wheelbarrow,
And am a better person for it.

M C Biegner