for Manchester, NH The midnight sky looks down on the Merrimack & the train horn blows. If you stood even a mile west, you could feel the strain & pop of the couplers as they strain against the pull, but in this city the train passes through beneath the high moon & the only sound that carries to this sleepy apartment window above Beech is that distant haunt song. That far off freight cry, the ancient groaning - too far away to hear the whine of steel wheels against the rail, the rattling clank of coal cars swallowed by the pitch. A feast of sound. Some long distance harpist is pulling at strings, a lead weight dropping to the bottom of my chest. Oh racing engine, sing me to sleep with a song, sad & sweet as a locomotive howl. Soaked in melancholy. A song so old it predates words. The streets in my city are quiet tonight. I can feel the diesel rumble in my bones. I can't make sense of this melody - it echoes too much, the sound waves bouncing off the bricks from the dead mills or the stainless steel & glass facades of luxury condos that have taken their place. Someone tell me why the old GP40 lurching along Canal St. sounds just like a funeral hymn. Like it's got the blues lodged deep in its pistons & can't nothing get them out but that howling, howling, coughing up sprays of rust & compressed air, slow & steady down warped tracks. Someone tell me why that old engine, half a century past its prime, sounds like the loneliest wail I'll ever hear. Show me how I can make it down to the crossing in time to watch it disappear. Flashing red light on the trailing car fast fading away into the night. Tell me it's only the engineer sounding out a warning to passing motorists nearby. Someone tell me it's just the locomotive crying, not the ghost chant of every risk I never took.
April 17, 2016
Sad Barge/Sick Animal – William James