David King


Waiting for Trains at Moon Station Road


One hundred fifty years ago here,
Fuller borrowed a pushcart, chased Andrews
Downgrade to the Etowah River.
Now at the abandoned crossing,
Closed to traffic since one too many drunks
Tried to beat the freights on Friday nights,
The rails still shift, shudder
Like a dead thing rising, and we hear,
If we are lucky, the familiar distant wail,
The low, dense rumble collapse and roll around us.
Out of nothing, and from nowhere, comes something.

For a long time we stand entranced,
From the moment we see the headlight,
Bearing down and coming fast,
The slow gesture of the engineer’s hand
Lifted barely off the throttle,
The brakeman’s tobacco spit fly back against a hopper.

We count the cars driven like a wedge
Between the new subdivision,
Rising, too, across the road,
The vandalized signal gates,
The barbed-wire-wrapped field on the other side.

Then, too soon, it’s gone,
And we hear again only the thrashers,
See the spiral of a black snake tangled
Like a thread in the dogwoods,
Startle at the protest of a truck’s transmission,
Grinding toward the shopping center
Going up behind the ridge.

But we never leave too soon, and it may be
Fuller’s ghost that keeps us here,
Or a childhood fascination
With the trains that come around the bend
Like toys brought into life,
Boxcars posting names foreign yet familiar—
Union Pacific, Burlington Northern,
Southern and the fabled Santa Fe.

Sometimes, it’s still quiet here.
In the evenings, when the hammers fall silent
And the suburbs start to settle down, we hear
Miles away the Dash-8s yearning for Atlanta.

Now and then, the engineer
Still waves like he means it,
Blows the horn in bursts just for us,
And we feel again the old thrill.
But mostly, it’s the waiting that matters,
This patient faith in the machinery of certainty.





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Artwork on this page:
Detail of Family secrets too heavy to fly
20 x 36" oil on wood, 2013
Irene Hardwicke Olivieri

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