Poem: Waiting for a Train


Waiting for a Train

As a boy you waited by the tracks,
often for hours in a hot summer’s day.
Sweat bees hovered around you,
their tiny stings keeping you awake as you waited.

Hours sometimes. Half a day.
You waited, never knowing the schedule, but sure
the train would come, eventually.

You heard it before you saw it.
A low rumbling in the ground beneath you,
until finally, it came,
the blunt engines, dark and menacing
and then the long chain of cars. 

Coal cars, each one piled high with black stone,
shining in the sun, fresh hewn from the West Virginia mines.
Here and there, a few chunks fall,
enough to build a fire in the night.

But not now. For now, you sit,
the earth rumbling beneath you,
the steady click-clack of the wheels,
watching the occasional spark of steel against steel,
waiting, waiting for that last car,

the caboose, red with its windows dark.
No evidence of life, but you knew; you always knew
someone was there,
someone, not you, not yet, but someone,
was traveling around the bend,
far from your little boy’s world,
and part of you traveled with him,

A yearning that has never left you.
Wanderlust, that bit of a boy that still lives
in this gray-haired shell, waiting at the crossing
as the train passes by,
more than patient,
you smile, remembering not who you were,
but who you are.


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