Defiance II

This is not a city of cars, I refuse to believe it. My town is hemmed in by bright rails to the north, a rail hub in its heart, our river flowing with trains running the length of it. Our city stitched through with tracks, our air washed clean after the cold front, the broad oaks jettison their freight of leaves, veining the sky with bare limbs. The sound of the trains, cold and clear, is the sound of purity. My morning sky, tree hemmed, is a delta viewed on an atlas and there is no better day to be alive.

I heard John Henry bound this city himself in rails, laid a thousand tracks in one day, a hammer in each hand. I found the knuckles in each clenched fist fit together like a gear. The gears in the gut of my saw fit one to the next like teeth stitched to a jaw. It turns, it is relentless. I drove my truck to work for ten years with a deer’s jaw wedged where the dash met the windshield. I dreamt I went to war with the jaw of a mule and killed a thousand men. There is a jaw-bone wedged where the earth meets the sky. It is a lever.

One cold day in the woods, long ago, one of the grown-ups came running frantic around the bend, get off the tracks he said, there is a train coming. There is a train coming, he said, get off the tracks, there is a train coming.