Train Poem


Rumbling Through Dreams



At midnight and two, it shook walls

with a diesel and steel roar

that could wake the deaf,

yet in a little house built next to tracks,

my brother and I,

stacked in bunk beds,

slept a practiced sleep

as the Burlington Northern rumbled West through our dreams.


Walking in measured steps

from crosstie to crosstie,

I followed that line,

eyes forever to the horizon,

never losing sight of the point

where it all comes together,

stopping only to mine the best pieces of rose quartz,

mica, and coal,

from beside the tracks.

When a train would come, off in the distance,

before moving clear,

like an Indian, I put my ear

to the rail just to hear

the music of steel rolling over steel.

And, at the end of the day,

all walked out,

I dropped my treasure in a tattered sneakers box

with collected stamps, Bicentennial quarters,

Navajo tears, and letters from grandparents

half a continent away.


In the mornings before breakfast

in arid Colorado summers,

I ran to the tracks

to the special place on the rail where I put pennies

the night before,

smoothed flat by impact and mass

of trains carrying coal from the mountains,

sugar beats from the eastern plains,

delighting in the occasional remnant of Lincoln—

a nose, an ear, an eye, a texture of beard,

an e pluribus unum,

each atom of currency destroyed each a different way.


I dream of riding trains,

of snaking serpentine through the American patchwork.

East Coast forests blending

into Great Plains wheat,

rolling Ohio hills flattening

into the Kansas horizon

slamming into the sheer granite faces

of Rocky Mountain cliffs

and then, through desert sand,

to the sea.

I dream of salt mist and factory smoke,

ponderosa pine and sequoia,

of rain pelted windows and thick valley fog.

I dream and in my dreams, I ride trains

and do not make good time

but rather ride forever on trains that never stop,

longing to reach the place just ahead,

the elusive point of perspective

where the rails merge,

where the separate become singular,

where all things bind together

to be the one thing, whole.


© 2008, all rights reserved by the author.