"The Train Museum" by Christopher Raley

We never rode them, delicate machines that first tied the world

round with iron string and set life speeding

to its fever pace;

nor the cruel beasts

pulling loads through mountains unwilling

of tunnels blasted and long

where the beasts carried crews to suffocate;

nor the dining cars,

elegant to eat off china unique to the line

and search final shapes of a twilight world pass to night

and be forgotten under strength of electric light;

nor the box cars

that bore the dreams of harder men

from dust and famine to the farms of California,

men who never once gave to anger without they first

embittered the bed from which it rose.


when we went it was Amtrak 3 AM

waiting while the town slept as if deserted,

and Billy stumbled from his truck when the train came,

having stoned his senses for the ride,

and rode the observation car, red eyes glazed at the dawning world,

and spoke of how stupid are sheep;

and Amber came on down the line

crying out of her boy friend into my friend

under the gentle mockery of the conductor;

and night again in the dining car,

hard plastic booths round cheap laminate tables

where Bob-with-hair-like-this played cards,

gave us tips on roller derby

and told us of the time he gave the finger to the devil;

and the long hours in airline seats

breathing recycled air in the dead of night,

wondering when our stop would come, or dawn,

and an unstudied for test in History on Monday

and wishing I could care at least about that

but only thinking to myself:

Matt has his license,

why didn’t we just drive?