Issue 9 – Lawless

John G. Lawless

Where the Railroad Track Meet

Grasping, lunging as does a donkey for the
dangling apple leading it forward, I reached
for the ever elusive spot. That place where
the railroad track meet. Almost had it in
Idaho before it slipped over an ever so near
horizon. Came close in Nebraska’s corn country
as it dipped beneath the tops of the late
September corn, again in New Jersey, only
to lose sight of it in the low coastal fog.

They say they never meet, the railroad track,
but I know different. I hear the murmuring
of the hobos, old stories told around lukewarm
fires by passionless men. Sad retellings of
the fateful end of the line the last ride.

Some claim that when the track meet,
they create a funnellike vortex devouring
the train and the contents thereof. The
more mystically inclined simply believe that
there is an end to the line, an ultimate destination,
a resting place for hobos and their scant
belongings.

A hobo hell, no hum of the steel wheels, no
clickityclack of the slow freight train, no
shriek of the whistle, no hiss of the steam
engines whooshchuuu, whooshchuuuu,
as it strains on the upgrades. Only the
fading sound of the bell and the dimming light
of the lantern waving from the rear
of the caboose as it melts into the spot
where the track meet.

I have pursued the spot in all directions,
north, south, east, west only to realize that
it is the track that decide where they will
meet and with whom. The track that create
the mystery of their meeting and the implications
of its meaning. Solitary lifelines of a nation,
weary commuter guides, steel ribbons
suturing an injured economy, glistening
vibratory vagabonds traipsing the terrain
of dusty dreams.

And yet they still entice us to follow them,
to walk on countless ties, to listen to the
hum of history, feel the hot wind of an
old friend rolling past. There is a music to
the rails, a difference to the tone of each
passing wheel. Each season has its own
repertoire of tunes. Cold steel, hard ground,
iced ties teased by friction warmed wheels.
Hot, softened, rails emanating scalding
heat, compressed into the creaking ties and
soft dusty bed, percussion played at sunset
in the cooling shiver, the echo of old rails
final contractions.

I see them through the mist of distance,
hear the muffled sounds of purpose,
wheels slowly rolling to that spot
where the railroad track meet.