Over the Tracks
In summer we’d pitch our wishes to the tracks,
toss pennies between the ties and wait for trains
to come and lift them off like bells snagged
to the bumpers of wedding cars, engineers waving
like lonely grooms. Fenced behind chain-link and weeds
they trumbled past, the faded words SOUTHERN PACIFIC LINES
and carman markings, fat chalk letters that crawled
over metal like hungry slugs. They didn’t stop
when you were sleeping, they kept coming, the hooking
and unhooking, the banging together, the scraping apart,
the coupling and uncoupling like desperate lovers.
They shook us awake, pronounced arrivals into air,
departures etched like fading smoke against sad sky.
Some days we’d climb the fence, find pennies splayed out
among the blades or tucked into gravel, knicked from the force
of their journey, melted from heat. It would happen
to our souls, too – once we were old enough
to know it just kept coming, old enough to understand
the trip to a line’s end on a Texas summer night.
Notes: The footage in the video is spliced together from various sources from the Prelinger Archives – promotional videos about rail lines, newsreels, and home movies. This started out with over three hours of possible footage to use, so the most daunting part of the task was sifting through it and deciding what to use. Once that was done I ran it through Movie Maker, downloaded the train sounds from iTunes, recorded my voice into my iPhone, and transferred it to my computer. I’m curious if other people record the poem first, or create the visuals before recording the reading. I’ve found it works better for me to create the video first, with the poem in mind of course, and with me playing the video back and reading the poem to myself for timing’s sake. But when it comes to putting it all together, I like to record my voice while viewing the actual, completed video. So for this one, I just played the video while I read the poem and timed myself accordingly.
I like this one — saw it on YouTube earlier (and thanks for uploading your videos there, BTW). That’s interesting that you do so much of the visual editing before recording the soundtrack. I almost always start with some idea of what visuals I will use, but record the poem, find music and/or sounds (if any) and blend them into a soundtrack before even attempting to craft the video. I have a feeling Tom Konyves (he of the videopoetry manifesto) would like your method better than mine!
Now that I think of it, I made the Difference Between Our Bodies one the same way. I already had the video when i contacted you for the audio. The whole time I was working on this one i kept thinking ‘this is a really weird way to do this,’ but it’s what felt right so I went with it. I think it has to do with not knowing HOW to read the poem until the video is complete, and wanting the visuals to guide the reading. I never was much of a speaker as a poet anyway, so that might have something to do with it.
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