Elegy For Trains
When the moon is gone,
you are gone:
a rumble of gravel over steeló
less, the ghost of that,
as here as the sun clinging
to the tiny burs of wheat.
You came to us in our
and in them are redeemed.
wandering up the crooked streets
of Arkansas cotton towns
after the shops had closed
their sleepy eyes
to the lullaby of lamplight.
You came in the eyes
of my father:
forty years ago,
riding you through the ghosts
of Indian plains
from Shawnee to Oklahoma City,
singing with the sound of the rails.
In steam and in muscle
you came to my crib
out of the underwater cave of blue Oklahoma night,
already dying and whispering the songs
of rocks, of wind through cactus needles
and the sandy-voiced prayer
of the coyotes.
You came knowing the
anatomy of America,
the great semis hunched like grizzlies,
that river rolling and caressing the contents
of its own deep stomach,
thousands of ghosts walking between here
where the empty tracks point out the distance
to the stars.
You move past fields
of broken corn
in long metonymy of steel
at evening when vague colors spill
around the town where I was born.
Your whistle haunted
that I received submerged in sleep
as if you tunneled through the deep
to reach me where the great whale lies
in his deep bed of
where star-fish scatter like the leaves
that cling to streets when winterís freeze
comes down to damp our breath and talk.
A low whistle rolls
thickly through the valley
Your tracks lie now
with cattle bones,
grown brittle in the balding grass,
so like your length all things must pass
into the silent yard of stones.
Yet once more, you
chicken weeds, once more
you dandelion fuzz, poison sumac
grown between the rails, wave, mourn while under
the belly of the bull you blues the track.
And come, Robert Johnson, to wail in blood
of Arkansas seen in a dream of pine
and truck stops that stand where pioneers stood
and the train gone with two lights on behind.
And come one last time, you sweet swinging rail sound,
to draw smoke rings around the wrinkling sun
that, aging, must learn to lean upon the ground.
Your final car is sign of days now done.
What strange angel your iron-stiff sides will seem
as passing on now, rolling, you are redeemed.