by Claudia Emerson
Claude says he, too, was given the tracks and not
the train, the way — and not the way out, not the beyond
beyond that bend, or the next. The place
they call Drybridge — for the waterless bed
of rails — where on the banks, you grow up learning
more news from hoboes than from the mailman.
But you know nothing of the train as it passes
behind the backs of grander houses, gutted
warehouses, chained dogs, as it grazes an alien
grid of fences — of stone, metal, and chain-link.
Or that when it passes beneath the underside
of a bridge, a boy your own age waves the way
you do, and that there is a horse doesn't lift its head,
and one that does, only to lower it again.
You are a grown man when the train comes
to a scalding stop, and a lantern swings down
the road. A man has been killed, they call out
from behind the light's aura, and would you come see
what you can tell of him by what's left. You do
know his hat, and that burn scar on the back
of his hand. What you know of his wife
you do not say and will not even the next
night when you sit up with the body in the house
he wanted that much shut of, her voice rigid
as its walls while the train you hear out there in the darkness
passes by the way it always does, as though
the same, the very same, and, again, on
the time it will this night be able to keep.