Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

“Out of Africa”

Marcel Brouwers, a first-generation American, has lived in Chicago, Seoul, Prague, Zihuatanejo, Kalamazoo, and Cassis, France. He currently lives in Knoxville, where he teaches in the University of Tennessee’s English department and serves as director of the UTK Writing Center. He is also the author of The Rose Industrial Complex, a chapbook of poems published by Finishing Line Press in 2009.

Out of Africa

That the train was wooden but for the wheels,
two pews facing each other the length down
the car, and the roof, open to whomever climbed
to watch for tunnels and low-slung palm fronds;

that was the where, and a crippled woman,
the sole of one foot not touching the ground,
upturned, ankle bones warping against the floor,
elephant skin calloused on the tongue side,

was not begging but crawling to the open door,
those ties a blur, the shacks a child’s wave
behind each last curve. Charity was out of place,
the man to my left attempting English to sell me

sapphires, blue with buried stars in darkness,
held up to light to reveal six points, proof
of authenticity, he not seeing her slow shuffle,
her crutch bench-high, the slow rumble of a train

switching tracks along the coast’s frontage road
as riders up rooftop clutch handrails, and the world
ducks every passerby to get to where no one
has not been, those parallel tracks finally joined.