Ode to Trains Departing Billings Railyard
You wake the world like a hammer dropped,
like morning's aftertaste of a drink at last call.
Trestle and ballast shoulder you through towns
made of rivers and mines, north country
stops held by grace and dirty snow.
Coalers, grainers, flatcars and tankers
clocked by a shimmer of diesel
heat, move the world on your back.
All forks in the road are settled by the fists
of switchmen. The iron smell of your departures
is the perfect hunger of that one phone call
granted a fugitive trapped on his way out of town.
July, and a man fishes the Yellowstone
from the trestle of a derelict rail bridge.
In the near distance, a young woman
with a new backpack, stares down
Route 89 toward the interstate.
She hangs a thumb in the air
for southbound traffic. The worries
of her parents back home
in White Sulphur Springs are carried
by the soles of her new Sketchers.
Her ears still hold to the Van Morrison
an old man played in his Dodge truck
as he gave her a lift the length
of Meagher County.
A Bozeman busboy hangs from her heart.
There is, in her coat pocket, a gift for him,
a song she wrote to unfold in his voice
as he laces her lines between the strings
of his guitar, his fingertips calloused
with chords she wants the night air to touch.
What they have is not boxed candy
or a Hallmark crush—it is earth
and humid sky, railroad ballast, coarse
stones of the Gallatin River they'll steal
barefoot over, to a palm reader
back in town, on West Main, their music
weaving into their skin, unrinsed
by water, nor the miles between
them, even when she lifts her hand again
on that highway north, her lifeline in the air.
[ back to top ]
|Copyright © 2016 | Post Road Magazine | All Rights Reserved|