“Hot Rails”

■ By Rob Lindquist / Contributed

Out of some nonexistent past,
Perhaps the creosote,
Heated by a desert sun,
Circling in wind devils.
Off railroad ties,
Half buried in the sand.

Out on the desert,
The rusty rails
Creak and ping.
A high sun raises up noises
From another time;
Sounds of worn and
Polished rims of endless
Wheels that bucked and chucked
Through the Joshua trees,
Banged over stumpy bridges
Across white sand river beds:
Wheels of iron
Rolling east and west,
Clicking loudly over the joints,
Shaking the mountains,
Waking slinky day-sleepers
Under red rocks;
Walking old spikes out of black wood.
And they talk to each other,
the rails,
Speaking of the heavy load
And the work of standing firm
In the heat of a desert summer.

Can you see it? Can you hear
The deep throated call
Of its steam whistle?
Steam on, move those beams,
Flex those massive elbows;
Push pistons, push!
Move all that hot iron.
Engineer, give me your tin cup,
Hanging on a loop
From the boiler gauge!
I need your black old coffee.
It’s hot thinking about all this!

Bums! Can’t you see ‘em now?
Come through Blythe
Out of Hoboville;
Standing at the doors
Of empty boxcars,
Bold and slack,
Hot and ready to do
Any sorta work;
“Goin’ to California
Where they sleep out ev’ry night.”

Old Baldwin, big job;
Got more’n a dozen drivers.
Push on, you mountain of metal,
You memory!
Sweat and fire, smoke, steam, work!
And cry, with me, you great,
Marvelous black machine.
Wake up the coyotes,
Crack those rails and split the white hot desert
With your lonesome sound.

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