Voices and Verses

National Poetry Month: “Sunset Limited” By Georgia Pearle

The Houston poet reads a poem that revisits her memory of a train wreck.

Poet Georgia Pearle

In this sound portrait, we meet poet Georgia Pearle. She talks about what it meant to win a haiku contest in grade school and why she loves the silences in poetry.  She reads her poem, “Sunset Limited,” which recontextualizes her childhood memory of a train accident.

Georgia Pearle is an alumna of Smith College and holds an MFA in Poetry from Lesley University. Her poems have appeared in Kenyon Review Online, Crab Creek Review, and WSQ, among others. She is currently a Doctoral Fellow in Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Houston and the Digital Editor for Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Arts. Pearle was the recipient of the 2018 Inprint Marion Barthelme Prize in Creative Writing, and she teaches for Grackle & Grackle Workshops and Inprint Houston.

 

Sunset Limited

I.
After the wreck, they drove me down
where the charred cars lay stacked
by the highway’s wayside. Look, girl.
Seagulls bobbed and plunged at loosed
saltines. Frog calls blistered in the background.
There must have been stretchers brought,
helicopters circling in huntress swarms,
radioed calls to tote the dead away.
The train that pummels off into bayou,
that’s all Momma drawn to the bogs,
no mind to her ribs, steel and bowed,
pregnant with passengers. She thinks
she’s a gilled fortress. Her iron
shudders and shouts through the pines.
A woman is neither train nor wreck,
but he was the barge in fog that sent
her track akimbo? No. Not barge, not
man. A girl is neither track nor last halt.

II.
I got to drive that train once.
Sat on the conductor’s lap.
I guess it was less driving,
more pulling a string to let
the whistle croon long-loud.
He’d pulled on his jumpsuit
that hazed September morning,
when the sky still hung pitch,
to help the bog-drenched,
the drowned, shaken bodies
from the flaming Canot. The train,
later: steel split under the weight
of its own derailment, passengers
all dispersed, the small crook
of bayou still speckled with oil.
Today you called me a train
wreck. Maybe I am more
like the girl I was, sitting
in your conductor’s lap,
the view of my own sunset
limited. I have never been a train.

 

This poem first appeared in WSQ: Survival, Vol. 44 and is reprinted with permission by the author.

Music used:  Dies Irie (excerpt) and Lullaby For My Favorite Insomniac (excerpt) by Kenji Bunch from Ahn Trio: Lullaby For My Favorite Insomniac; Stillness by Hilary Hahn & Hauschka from Silfra; Memory Palace (excerpt) by Christopher Cerrone from Ian David Rosenbaum: Memory Palace

To learn more about this series, go here.

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Catherine Lu

Catherine Lu

Content Producer & Announcer

While growing up in Chicago and Houston, Catherine’s love for art, music and creative writing was influenced by her teachers and parents. She was once concertmaster of the Clear Lake High School Orchestra and a four-time violinist of the Texas All-State Symphony. A graduate of the University of Chicago, Catherine...

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