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When Janell asked,
"What is literature?"
I felt I had to explain.
"What might really happen "
or "something
you make up." Then I saw—

that could be spite
or lies. I might have said,
"what begins and ends,
what runs its course
once and after all."

For instance, it could be
when that couple I knew
moved into
the Carpenter Lane station,
neat clapboard
and gingerbread lace,
the railroad rented out
by the month.
In back, imagine
buds on the bushes,
but they'd have time to be roses,
small torches
caught before they flared.
And somewhere near,
a pond paying close attention,
doubling the world,
as water does or a story
does in the telling.

I might have said
how Janell 1,
you yourself, before,
are different from Janell 2,
you now. Though
I'd come to realize
it was always Janell
in the same plaid dress,
but fresh and clean
each week. Think how

to that couple
going out mornings
would have seemed a journey
and returning
in the fine blue dust
of twilight, a homecoming.
Either way, trains

coming and going,
so many goodbyes to wave
or hellos. And so
time passed.
What else could it do?
Or sometimes a light rain
might have fallen,
washing the day away.

Anyhow, today
not a curtain moves,
no one is there to see
the passengers pass by.
What happened
is literature. Now at night
the trains stand still
in the yard,
even the heavens are still,
only the stars
moving through them

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