A passenger train left Fresno at five o’clock heading east
traveling at forty-five miles per hour. Precisely at eight
a sixty car freight pulled out of Newport News,
reminding the pilot of a Kiowa from the U.S.S. Lincoln
of his grandmother twenty years gone.
He recalled the way she worked yarn from the hank,
long strand leaving the station, mile after mile rolled up,
falling asleep in her lap wrapped in her lavender clacking.
A stiff arm westerly wind hove up the track lost time
thinks the engineer six years shy of retirement back
of his hand for a man on a bike at a crossing,
absently grazing the parchment patch of psoriasis
on his temple, cracked finger like a dry lake bed
cueing on the button, ragged bellow from the heart
of the beast - three short blasts followed by one long -
inhaling the purest of pleasures, closing his eyes
for a measure or two, teasing out immortality
implicit in the Doppler echo. Nevada state line
come and gone, the east bound flyer boring
a burr hole into a fitful sun, trepanned relief
for a morning possessed of Föhn winds,
glinting aluminum hives alive with larvae wriggling
beneath the leaf litter of free USA Todays
because the WiFi is out until Salt Lake City.
The caboose gone the way of the buffalo but an elderly
Paiute in a dusty Ford pickup with a rack full
of irrigation pipe remembers receding red lights,
warm glow from the cupola winking out at the horizon,
the conductor asleep, eyes shelved beneath
the short brim of his blue torte cap.
Which train will reach Chicago first? For
Extra Credit what did the chopper
pilots grandmother knit?