Cecil Giscombe and Judith Margolis: Train Music

A poet and a book artist take a train across the United States, creating and conversing along the way. 

Cecil Giscombe and Judith Margolis recently published Train Musica collaborative travelogue that explores race and gender with a mix of poetry, prose, and visual art.


In Train Music, Giscombe’s narrative disjunctions and Margolis’ figurative abstractions crisscross at a roundhouse (‘I’m not a white girl, you said,’ ‘How do I get away with it, you wanted to know’) as they cut yard, heading West. For Giscombe, on his way to either ‘shake things up’ or ‘furnish comfortable words’ for a white audience about to hear his lecture on white supremacy, the ironies are hardly unique. Margolis’ moody, dark drawings evade easy definition by swaying back and forth, from depictions of a woman asleep in a bed and a woman wearing a house as her head to women standing on the roof of a house (upright coffin, empty coffer). Her vertical spirituality (the moon is one of her motifs) serves as counterweight to Giscombe’s horizontal zig-zag agnosticism, laying low like the Greenland shark that ‘runs those seminars/ way down under that ice,/ unconsumable/ maybe/ alive a thousand years/ down there.’ Train Music celebrates the survival of two artists selected by two histories for extermination. Together though, Giscombe and Margolis dance to the singing wheels of their cross-country trains, ‘A foot in one car, / a foot in another, passing from one to the next one.

Tyrone Williams, author of As iZ