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The Song of the Train

by Paul Christley Tumey

As I lie next to you,
the train comes.
Though I have lain with them open
since the owl last asked his question
and it is now time for the robin to report.
I close my eyes
to see better the train.

I see it on the horizon,
separating earth from sky,
sex from sex with a steel line
as thick as the tension in my spine
as I lie next to you.

I see pistons and fulcrums
steam and smoke
and I know that's my heart
pounding like a sledgehammer,
and smoke the light in my eyes
that see only the train on the horizon.

I am the train,
and I no longer lie next to you.
As you sleep on into the hot night,
my slotted wheels hug the silver track
and I sigh from relief with new purpose and direction
as urgent as the pounding of pistons and fulcrums.

The train calls
and the house shivers.
The engine and the cars clank on by
like slaves in a chain.
And you awaken and though the night
is so hot you find my warmth
and hold me close. I am the train.

And the train leaves,
sleep comes over me at last.
A part of me will always be on the silver track
and part resting in your holding arms,
and through my sleep I hear it strong
the song of the train.

- Summer 1986, Tallahassee, Florida


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