8-16 Railroad Crossing

Railroad Crossing


Tunneling under spruce branches,

we laid model train tracks in an oval around the base,

mirror ornaments reflecting our designs.


Around and around the Lionel freight engine,

coal car, cattle car, flat car with toy trucks, tank car,

and caboose rumbled over carpet plains as Boo Boo

shivered on the couch, ears twitching, head askew.


At a county crossing—no lights no gate,

tracks emerged from its vanishing point

on a curve and John thrilled to park in the middle,

church key on the dash, Corvair belching blue plumes,

then ignition off, radio blasting until we heard

the distant whistle. He winked in the rear-view mirror,

the black leviathan storming closer and closer,

tracks quaking, he’d twist the key,

clamp the steering wheel knob and

spin tires inches from the twilight zone.


The last day I remember,

near zero and dropping, snow hard as ice,

the crossing crusted with frozen slush,

sand, oily grit, salt, flattened cans,


radio broken, heater baking, a crow

cawing on top of the icicled crossing sign,


the locomotive thundered around the curve

John as usual flipped the bone,

winked, turned the key


and wincing is all I remember.