Asking for Directions

Linda Gregg is a wonderful poet, but I chose this poem for the storyline. I thought it related well to how one might define what makes a good short story. See the quote below from Sadie Stein:

“A short story, when it’s good, doesn’t draw you into a comforting world; it shakes you up. It’s not … what you want to read before going to sleep: It’s a different kind of intellectual and emotional commitment.”

The poem has wonderful images and disturbing characters and much that is left to decipher and imagine. Those elements in the realm of short stories are golden.

Asking for Directions                                                                       Linda Gregg


We could have been mistaken for a married couple

riding on the train from Manhattan to Chicago

that last time we were together. I remember

looking out the window and praising the beauty

of the ordinary: the in-between places, the world

with its back turned to us, the small neglected

stations of our history. I slept across your

chest and stomach without asking permission

because they were the last hours. There was

a smell to the sheepskin lining of your new

Chinese vest that I didn’t recognize. I felt

it deliberately. I woke early and asked you

to come with me for coffee. You said, sleep more,

and I said we only had one hour and you came.

We didn’t say much after that. In the station,

you took your things and handed me the vest,

then left as we had planned. So you would have

ten minutes to meet your family and leave.

I stood by the seat dazed by exhaustion

and the absoluteness of the end, so still I was

aware of myself breathing. I put on the vest

and my coat, got my bag and, turning, saw you

through the dirty window standing outside looking

up at me. We looked at each other without any

expression at all. Invisible, unnoticed, still.

That moment is what I will tell of as proof

that you loved me permanently. After that I was

a woman alone carrying her bag, asking a worker

which direction to walk to find a taxi.


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