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All Aboard | Poetry Where You Least Expect It

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Early April in Vermont's capitol

Early April in Vermont’s capitol

Julia Shipley

Starved for colors, I found myself marveling at the platinum-hued potato chip bag by the side of the road as if it were a marsh marigold or goldfinch. Right now I find even the jewel tones of a green plastic bottle and cobalt Bud Lite can beautiful, basking next to mud. Our spiffy tubs of pansies and geraniums are still some weeks off, yet as we emerge from winter’s monochrome, there’s still the urge to search for something lovely.

In lieu of all the vibrant hues that will bloom and chirp in the months to come, visitors to Montpelier’s business district will find hints and glimpses in store windows. April is National Poetry Month, and the Capitol City helps residents and visitors garden the mind by providing verse to pause and read on the way to the bank or the bagel place or the library or in my case, the Amtrak station at Montpelier Junction.

At People's United Bank, before you cash a check you can check out three poems.

At People’s United Bank, before you cash a check you can check out three poems.

Julia Shipley

There are ten poems on display in the front window of the Drawing Board, a fantastic art supply store in downtown Montpelier.

There are ten poems on display in the front window of the Drawing Board, a fantastic art supply store in downtown Montpelier.

Julia Shipley

Reading poems on the way to work, appointments, Congress...people reading poems in Montpelier.

Reading poems on the way to work, appointments, Congress…people reading poems in Montpelier.

Julia Shipley

Montpelier's Amtrak Station is about two miles from the Capitol.

Montpelier’s Amtrak Station is about two miles from the Capitol.

Julia Shipley

Amtrak’s “Vermonter” leaves St. Alban’s Vt once a day at 8:58 in the morning and runs south to Washington D.C. (This is going to sound like the proverbial math problem, but it’s true) The once a day northbound Vermonter leaves Washington D.C. at 8:10 am. (Often, they’ll pass each other in Connecticut or Massachusetts.)

Today, I’m riding south, but before I board the train I have a little reverse vandalism to do. The Montpelier Junction station is two miles from downtown, near a batch of industrial buildings, perhaps just a tad beyond the decorative reach of PoemCity.

Every day, seven days a week, Annette Hayward, the station master drives over from Northfield and unlocks the tiny station twice a day. Inside, the lobby has a quirky charm—a hodgepodge of faded photos of trains surging across America; a vintage train schedule from the Chicago Alton Line’s “Luxury on Wheels” listing the hourly departures from Kansas City; and hand decorated signs for Annette’s Blackberry Jam $6.50 for the small jars $7.50 for large (she’s all out now, but she’s got the frozen berries so she’ll have more soon). In addition to my two duffel bags, I’m also lugging a picture framed poem written by Burlington, VT poet, Ralph Culver. In my coat pocket I have two gallery-quality thumbtacks.

I have always believed in certain cases it is better to ask forgiveness than permission, so with my contribution to National Poetry Month tucked under my arm, I “step into the restroom,” and return to the lobby after a few moments, unencumbered.

Inside you'll find Annette Hayward, the Montpelier stationmaster, sells blackberry jam, nacho cheese munchie crackers out of her tiny waiting room.

Inside the station you’ll find Annette Hayward, who sells blackberry jam, nacho cheese munchie crackers out of her tiny waiting room.

Julia Shipley

Several minutes later Annette heads to the loo and I swallow hard, because I was hoping I’d be rolling out of town before she noticed my “augmentation.” I’ve positioned it so that men are more likely to see it. Maybe she won’t notice? She emerges and says, “Did you hang that?”

I blush. “Yes?”

She says, “I love it!”

Hopefully anyone railroading into Vermont’s capitol will, too.

And now, if you step in to the restroom, you'll find poetry too!

And now, if you step in to the restroom, you’ll find poetry too!

Julia Shipley

Comments
  • Annette

    Thanks, Julia, That’s just my job, Thanks for choosing Amtrak.

    Reply
  • Thanks, Annette!

    You certainly have made the Montpelier Junction Amtrak station a special place.

    Reply
  • Annette

    Thanks for writing about my little corner , my second home, Amtrak. I LOVE THE ARTICLE YOU HAVE WRITTEN, VERY NICE! I thank you for the Poem you hung in the bathroom to share. I have met so many pleasant people who have come and gone, at Amtrak…You are one, of the many , that I have met, that have shown true kindness, that’s passes through my life and my station, every day. Thank you! Annette M Hayward. It was a sweet surprise!

    Reply
  • Thanks, Samantha!

    There’s been a lot of buzz about “writer’s residencies” on Amtrak. (I have been considering it my Yaddo for years). It seemed that Ralph’s poem (which is about discovering cheer and hope in mid-winter) would be the perfect thing to greet Amtrak’s “writers in residence,” visitors and locals as they depart and arrive in Montpelier.

    Reply
  • Samantha

    Ralph Culver is a graduate of Goddard College! So neat to have a local alum represented at the train station.

    Reply

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