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Badlands

I can still see the view out of the window
of the 1959 train ride —
It lasted three days and three nights —
so long it seemed like we now lived on the train.
I can still see the Great Salt Lake
flat white salt sand that went on for a whole day.

And crossing the bad lands —
What made them bad? small brown hills everywhere
and rocks — no trees, no bushes, no plants,
no flowers — total absence of life.
I imagined the struggles of people
who had been lost in the bad lands

The ride went on and on mommy quiet, sleeping —
eventually letting us run up and down the aisles.
My sister, Minnie made friends with a small
dark-skinned girl, with her hair in pretty pig tales.
I envied her crisp-pressed, ruffled, white cotton dress.

Minnie and her new friend took me to the
compact train bathroom and showed me
how they could fill the tiny sink with water and soap
and whip it up until it was full of thick foam —
(we had a thing for bubble-baths at the time and
were always trying to make soap foam).

I was in awe and delighted at their daring —
not worrying at all about getting in trouble —
but when we were caught
and shooed out of the bathroom it didn't matter,
because that foam was so amazing.

I can still see the pretty face of the momentary friend
and the water running into a sink of white froth —
A punctuation between the life left behind
and the unimaginable yet to come
on a journey that changed everything.

Anne Bach