Trains in Winter
Over first coffee, I ride the diner and look out at snow fallen
deep in gorges. At winter stations, a locomotive can freeze to the rails, and a mountain night turn so cold it makes
the rails snap. Some trains in heavy snow overtake a moose herd along a roadbed, then sweep a few cows into a ravine,
or maybe a bull crossing a trestle will go on through, catching his legs between the ties. I've seen icebergs melting
in a Newfoundland cove, their fresh water icing to a clear glaze. I've heard of sister ships passing at sea, on their
last crossing, while on deck a few passengers wave. Tapestries in smoking rooms, shipboard mysteries. There is
so much tonnage to our lives, as if civility required an enormous effort, if only for a little sweetness, a little wine.
Hope's the pure country I was born
to, where trains run on schedule in their periodic and beneficent sadness. I want to forget the casual insults that
often pass for humor, and imagine the letters lovers might write, or the letters friends send every winter as their sentences
cross the distance of the page. Their words are like a train arriving in Los Angeles while another train approaches
the desert, and still another leaves the Chicago yards. Tonight I want to lie in my bed and listen to trains moving
across America toward a place still humanly possible, desirable if difficult, a day's journey away.
-from Trains in Winter