Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 536

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“Station” begins with a simple sentence announcing “we” are on a railway station platform and are about to say goodbye to each other. The train is waiting, ready to depart, and the speaker is already imagining how he might feel when his son is gone. He is aware, in a regretful sense, of all the things he and his son have never said to each other. The implication is that there may be no more time or no other opportunity to say such things.

The boy puts “his black dufflebag” on his shoulder and shifts his weight “from foot to foot,” perhaps indicating his discomfort with the prospect of saying goodbye to his father. The son is impatient to be on his way, and he looks not at his father but at the windows of the train. His father imagines him sitting in the train and staring out of the window at the play of light (“platinum dazzle”) on the water of the Hudson River.

The father wants to give his son some encouraging, uplifting words before he leaves, but he is also conscious of his own mixed feelings. Although his son is about to enter the big, wide world, it seems to the father that the boy is about to go into a “long tunnel.” The boy is leaving one parent for another, and father and son both know their relationship, as well as the boy’s life, will never be the same again. The air between them seems thick with thoughts that ought to be expressed but then suddenly thin again, as if the moment has passed. The father’s attention goes to the birds that “croon to themselves” in the angles between the iron girders at the top of the building (“iron angles”) and then fly off gracefully over the river.

In the third stanza, the moment of farewell comes. Father and son embrace, their cheeks resting against each other. The father is conscious of the difference in their skin, his unshaven and bristly, his son’s smooth but also showing the first signs of growing hair (“faint fuzz”), which reminds the father that his son is on the verge of puberty and adolescence. The father also realizes neither he nor his son is happy at this moment. His heart aches because he cannot find the right words to say to his son at this moment of departure, and he knows his son dreads an emotional scene in which his father does find the right words.

A sudden rush of people moving around them and announcements over the loudspeakers indicate that the train is about to depart. The boy says he has to be going. He and his father touch quickly, and then the boy gets in the train and vanishes from the father’s sight. A minute later the train departs, and the father walks alongside it, waving, even though he cannot see where his son is sitting. He imagines his son’s journey to his mother’s house. The train will go underground to cross the river, and the father imagines the boy’s face visible through the reflections that fill the window and disappear before they can even be identified.

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