Sad Barge/Sick Animal – William James

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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.


About William James

William James is a poet, aging punk, and train enthusiast from Manchester, NH. He's the founder & editor-in-chief of Beech St. Review, a contributing editor for Drunk In A Midnight Choir, and the author of "rebel hearts & restless ghosts" (Timber Mouse Publishing). Follow him on Twitter (@thebilljim) or at View all posts by William James

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