One Country May Hide Another
after Kenneth Koch

One country may hide another country idling inside it like a locomotive in the mountains, a surveyor peering from a distance above the humming cars, searching for signs of how or when you might return, for the manner of the field turning between the mountains, the country a quilt knitting across itself, the surveyor adjusting his tripod and level, his bright vest signaling that he is, after all, a part of the country he’s looking both from and into. And you are, too. You know this,

though you know neither how he arrived, nor you. You wonder after his home, wonder why he left, why he stopped so near or was sent just past the foothills, which don’t to you seem like warnings of anything; you wonder how he moved into the mountains, the country proud of its countryside and how it brims with life—though life, of course, is a warning of death, and death a warning of life, the trees a warning to the sky that the ground is reaching up like a child holding

a wand it waves at the mobile of planets spinning in the low sky above its head. Inside the child’s head the bones shift slowly as plates inside the earth, which shakes each time the locomotive’s engine prattles absent its forward motion. In the sleeping car you see a man talking to a grandmotherly woman holding her bag in her lap, her white gloves spotless despite the heat. Behind her you can see the boy playing jacks, though they’ve been so long out of fashion you wonder how he came

to find them. By chance, you imagine. And you suppose it’s not by chance that he only has one eye, blue in its socket like a planet, and there must be a story to this. You know it. You want to ask his mother, though she is absent, the boy letting the ball fall off the pullout table he was playing on before sliding it back up upon itself and pushing it out of sight as he pushes slowly onward toward sleep. One dream may hide another dream. One dream may hide another country and its methods,

and from where you sit, the weather picking up over the peaks, pressing its white breath into the ground, deer running past the locomotive as it lays there laboring through such restless sleep, you can only believe in the mountains, the wind, the warm breath of laboring underneath the snow. When it melts, you know, the ground will seem to rise, just as steam rises above the locomotive, the surveyor barely noticing it now as he looks over the landscape, the planet, hidden, as it is, at intervals, by what’s inside it.

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