Last Days of Steam
Dad had a laugh that road a goddamn
head of steam, ate track like candy.
Fireman stripped to the waist, his railroad
boots planted astride the gap between
yawning coal car and straining engine
fat brass gauges sweating through the climbing
numbers, yawing needles pushing into
the tender red. Incandescent tongues
through the open door of the firebox
licking the engineers gripping toes clean
greasy sausages broiled in steely skulls
perfuming the swirling cab.
Stoker was the job to have in the maw
of the hive amid a cloud of angry bees
fine wings alight. Better that than tied
to the tracks where we all took our turn
eyes crossed on the looming cowcatcher.