I’ve had my ear to the rail forty-six days and counting.
Three yards up the line, my sister huddles,
waiting, same as me.
I jerk my head up,
study the horizon.
But, no, it is nothing,
perhaps the whine of an airplane overhead;
its contrail divides the sky in half.
My sister clears her throat.
In the alfalfa field small birds
like warbler and nuthatch, flit from stalk to stalk.
I lay my ear down once more.
The steel rail warm and soothing against my skin.
Its smoothness is like a sharp, sharp blade,
ready to slice a tomato.
Now I hear rumbling.
Under the palm of my hand, vibration.
With my head on the trestle,
I see a plume of white, smoky steam
unfurling in the sky.
A finger pointing,
but not at me.
The vibrato becomes a shuddering.
The grumble, a deafening roar.
horrified and immobile.
With a scream, the locomotive is upon me,
shaking me senseless like dice in a cup.
Yet it misses me,
as if I were invisible.
I sit up after the last car passes,
watching my sister as she sails away,
her brown hair laughing with the wind.
I'd published another version of this poem much earlier in this blog's life. It's here now, closer to its final form.