Countersign

FROM the train-end the rails streak backward over the desert
Run molten under the dawn toward the planet rim;
Between me and the turning rim is no visible life,
Only the empty desert, the empty sky.
Stark against the track humps a dark group, huddled:
Heads lift from packs, there is a flash, a hand-wave, between us.
My heart does not stint my hand,
Nor do their hearts, I believe, stint their hands.
The flying train leaves them smudged against the rim —
Now lost.
And I say:
I have known you, dark-huddled brothers, in many lands;
For never did land or tongue set barrier to us,
Lack of roof, lack of bread, drew us, now whirling apart —
How unimportant they appear in this headlong moment,
How unimportant pain and the effort to ease it,
With blind cables binding the decades. . . .
There is peace in this countersign between us
As if the struggle were really ended
And civilization forgiven — forgotten.
I never felt alien faring amongst you alone
On foot on the road, in break-down train or boat,
Never learned the need to lock door or pack against you;
Was it strange to give what I had to you, to hold?
Twice, in cities, the house I lived in was robbed —
No more than that, to cumber the long faith kept,
The endless good-will of you, dark-huddled brothers.
Now I say:
You and I, as the rim turns and burns
And life runs low over the sand,
(You and I, caught in the same burning and turning)
In this instant comrade-call
Touch the peace at the core of the mystery.
Through the signal between us,
The pack you have carried,
My own
Appear of less substance than a flame’s leap at dawn.
Essential only
That forever departing each from the other
We are forever bound.
CHARLOTTE KELLOGG