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Traveling Backwards

In memory of Eli Mandel, author of the poetry collection Dreaming Backwards; this title was the inspiration for the title of this poem.

Taking the train
From Beit Shemesh to Tel Aviv
I regretted having taken a seat facing backwards

But then I thought
That riding backwards on a train
Is the way we live

We mortals

Once we have decided on our destination
Purchased our ticket
Boarded the train
And the train has begun to move

The journey dictates our actions
The tracks drive us forward

Which is true for the gentle landscape
Leading to Tel Aviv
And for the Canadian nights I traversed
Between Toronto and Montreal
With my Dad
Of blessed beloved memory

I remember how
Once when we arrived in the early crunchy morning
In his hometown
Montréal the exquisite
La belle ville
Dans la belle province

We took a taxi
He spoke French
With the taxi driver
In a French-Canadian accent
Unusual for Montreal Jews of his generation
First – that he spoke French altogether
Second – that he did so in a French-Canadian accent

Which lingered into our English conversation
When we got out

A memory suspended in time
Frozen like a Toronto icicle on a porch roof
Glistening in the Beersheba sun
Shining like a beacon before the Western Wall
In the Old City of Jerusalem

A memory suspended in my time
Between Toronto and Jerusalem

Like the houses and towns
You pass in a train

You are there beside the fields near Kfar Habad
You are there beside the trees pointing to Tel Aviv

You are there

You can almost touch them

My father is walking alongside me
And I look up at him
He smiles

Then he is gone

The icicle has melted

Like the trees
You passed

So vivid

So near

So distant

Like the distance between my two homes
My Canada and my Israel

Traveling backwards

Is the way we live our moments

The future unknown
The present melting into the past

While the train
Moves inexorably forward

First written on October 30, 2007 between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv

© Copyright 2007 Mark Elliott Shapiro

All rights reserved 



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