Laid myself across the tracks,
Liked the feeling of not coming back;
Vibrations down the line.
Engineering of my fate,
Wheels through ribs I’d lately wait,
But then, yes, you found me.
I’d wait, love, if I could,
Until you had unhooded my blood,
But the train is surely resounding.
I am terrible with knots.
The world is full of circles;
Yet only straight to a plot.
My dreams were stolen
Contrary to the laws
Of time and space,
Thirty years before
In a tanned leather case,
Stowed on a chartered
Northern-bound midwinter train;
It was nearly collected erroneously
By an elderly man
Who was never the same.
They tried to cut the padlock,
But the guard was asking for tickets,
So they crossed the border,
Disembarked, and lugged that valise
(Worn and covered in stickers
From places we once visited,
Venice, Rome and Trieste)
To their downtown offices
And shot at the numbers
With silver-white bullets.
They used the blueprints
For their gain
And that’s why the man was never the same,
For I was that luckless elderly man
Heading homeward over the blizzarding sounds,
On a snow-drowned locomotive.
The investigators arrived on the scene
At dawn. They could feel
From the steel seams which had
Buckled and warped
The heat of the steam escaping,
And as frost evaporated off
Mangled tracks and sleepers,
The heat reduced the metal there
To sludge of oil and deafened prayer.
They could smell the paraffin and coal
And burnt scarves and children’s toys
Before they had opened the doors
Of their vehicles, federally insured,
Absorbed it before they could seal
Their nostrils using protective masks
With labels which read ‘For one use only’,
And before they could unlock the trunk
Containing dozens of numbered markers
In yellow and black, and other trappings
For their employment, I looked back
To where this journey’s seventh junction
Became a rosary bead, no more than that,
Lost in drizzle and loneliness.
Across the rails, beneath the cliff,
A blackbird was strangely strapped in death
To a scorched pine tree’s torso.
I looked down and thought about
Meredith and all the others who
Had boarded that ornament,
Minding the gap,
A handbag strap,
Tickets clutched as tightly
As pessimists hold on to their mishaps;
And I realised in the dropping minutes
That instead of a vessel, this was a man,
The coal in my body, the tracks in my hands.