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The Trains

ISSUE:  Spring 1986
(for Walt)

Last night my friend called to say it’s a struggle
trying to keep the 30 degrees below zero out
of his house, but I thought of his father
in Scranton winter, on the hill with no trees,
of his sister who stopped eating because the man
she loved had a fatal stroke. Now he invites me and
my family over to see his basement again, full of train
tracks, six complete lines with cars, cabs, cabooses, white
churches with spires, post offices named with towns, great
spreading yellow maples, silver birches, sidewalks,
panes of glass in the candy store window. Small
rubber women, children, and men stand on platforms
or walk down back alleys about to pet a dog, to lean
on a fence and talk to a neighbor. At times the sky
darkens on a green hill, a woman falls off
the earth and is lost in the carpet. Names
and addresses flourish in miniature Official Records,
a child goes into the new hospital and does not come out.
Five old men meet every morning until there are four.
A girl walks from the church knowing she’s married
too young. At night the dark is complete except
for the red and green traffic controls and thin beams
of the engines’ headlights, the old Lackawanna
steaming in cold blown from the Lake, the Reading
rolling like an unstoppable wave to the swoosh
and whirr of wheels on steel drifting over bypasses,
bridges, through tunnels leading from dark to dark.


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