Train; December 16, Cold-Static Day, Not Very Crowded

by Max Gilman '25 on March 2, 2023
Portfolio Co-Editor


 Heat screams with no place to hide,

   Spewing, steaming, pushing, stewing—

             Stirring beneath stretching ceiling tiles,

            I listen because I am willing,

                 Whining through ear holes

  Like exhalation,

                   smoke travels

               thoughts linger


       I used to tell her I would be unbreakable when I got older.

And I’ll never again comprehend

what the hell that word ever meant to me,


Like metal.

My mother sits by the train window

my hands sit by the legs 

waiting for a tacking,

a buzzing will tell my thigh the head

is happy— a mere vibration.

The clawing on the other side of the wall,

pretending ears full,

fingers like a drenched rat—

when I make eye contact for the second time 

with the same pair of glasses three seats down.

On train, bathroom is escape, if needed.

the clearest reflection ever seen 

is a mirror coated in dirt, cracked several ways down the middle.

But train freedom—

 is the last thrill, entering wind like a bird.

mother was never meant for the prior,

on a train, for no destination.

The gale will guide her.

unbreakable like the sky;

the lie of the train, time,

the line of the yarn ball tangled beneath the steel wheel,

and nothing on a train lasts more than hours,

days, and strangers with lives that die in your mind

days after the trip.

Her and I never talk about the things we care about

Or maybe it’s I who avoids those things,

In the silence of a train bathroom

You can hear the world complicate,

Vibrating the bumpy tracks beneath,

And authority becomes you and the nothingness 

Because derailization could be death,

But still never tell her the things I care for.

A Girl named Phoebe, a Boy named Avery, and a Man named Clyde

by The Cowl Editor on October 21, 2021


a stack of folded sweaters
Photo courtesy of

by Taylor Maguire ’24


The walls of the wooden cabin shuttered as if the ghost of Halloween’s past drifted through it. Everyone else inhibiting the lodge fell into a deep hushed tone out of fear that any loudly exchanged words would cause us all to be consumed by snow. The wall by the kitchen of the lodge was lined with various postcards from America, and there was a record player in the corner that quietly played Frank Sinatra songs. I sat in the corner alone, beside the window, watching layers of snowflakes fall with an old copy of Little Women I had discovered in the library around the corner.  

Avery suddenly appeared at the bottom of the staircase. Avery was my best friend from college. We met in a Greek Classics class where the two of us would make fun of the statues we read about in Art History books. He walked over in his pajamas and curled up on the brown ottoman beside me.  

“You seem worried,” he says.  

“Oh I’m fine, the snow doesn’t scare me,” I reply.  

“You are from Michigan,” he says.  

“You didn’t get snow like this in California?” I ask.  

Avery lets out a chuckle.  

“What does Clyde think of everything?” he asks.  

Clyde is the owner of the lodge where we were staying. He has a long, thick white beard that curls around his face, and a pair of cherub pink apple cheeks. He rents out rooms to travelers for a cheap price, and always makes anyone a cup of chamomile tea with bread and butter. Avery and I have stayed here a little over a week and in that time we have gotten to know Clyde quite well considering travellers typically stay here for two nights tops.  

“Clyde believes it’ll pass, he’s more worried about keeping everyone warm,” I reply, turning a page in my book without really absorbing the words of Louisa May Alcott.  

Clyde comes over and drops an armful of sweaters on the table in front of us. They’re wool and are woven into specific storytelling patterns.  

“Don’t worry my youngest travelers, they’re clean, they belonged to my father years ago,” he says. I picked up the red one with a lion sewn on the front of it and put it over what I was wearing. Avery put on a forest green one that made his eyes appear to sparkle deviously.  

“What was your father’s name?” I ask.  

“Seamus Murphy. He was a fisherman. He left Ireland when he was seventeen and joined a bunch of other rugrat sailors. Met my mother in Switzerland and he built the lodge here with his own two hands for me and my four sisters,” Clyde replies.  

“Clyde, you never mentioned you had sisters,” I say.  

“Oh of course. There was Saoirse, Roisin, Clodagh, and Gracie. We all grew up in this cabin. You know, we were all very close. When we were kids we would run around the field and they would pretend to be fairies and I would play the Tolkien evil shapeshifter known as the Pooka. We were all guided by our fearless leader Roisin who had this wild imagination. Roisin was the one who tucked us in to bed each night and would read us classic American literature before we would fall asleep. She sewed us each stocking caps to wear in the winter, and she even taught me how to tie my shoelaces,” he sighs.  

“I would love to see these female versions of you, Clyde. Where did they disappear to?”  

Avery always had a knack of getting someone to let their guard down. He could get anyone to willingly divulge their buried secrets. It was a talent of his that was very similar to witnessing a car crash. It was too awful to ignore; you couldn’t look away out of fear of missing what would happen next.  

“The dynamic of our relationship didn’t survive the burden of life’s adversities. Shortly after my father died from a heart attack, Gracie wandered off into the woods during a night like this. It destroyed my mother, but Roisin was never the same after Gracie’s disappearance. We stopped frolicking around fields, and began cleaning plates and sweeping floors in between schooling. She left home less than a week after her 18th birthday and I haven’t seen or heard from her since. Saoirse and Clodagh moved with my mother to America where they send me postcards every month or so,” he says.  

“It’s a shame really. For such a beautiful home created through a parent’s love for their children to be abandoned completely in the alps of Switzerland,” Avery says. There’s a hint of suspicion in his voice that rings louder than I believe he intends it to.  

“Beauty can be a misleading facade, Mr. Avery. Besides, if the tragic history of this home had not occured, I wouldn’t meet the strangers of this world like your charming self.”  

“It is funny though that you picked out Little Women to read, Phoebe,” Clyde says, turning to me.  

“How come?” I ask.  

“That was Roisin’s favorite,” he replies. He stands up now.  

“Well, duty calls. If you both get cold, I have some nice long stockings that you can borrow. Will make you look very dashing, Avery,” Clyde says, giving me a wink.  

Clyde blows out a series of candles that linger around nearby tables, leaving the fireplace to serve as our only source of light during the storm.