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June 2009, vol 5 no 2

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Clyde Kessler

 

Crossties

There are old railroad crossties scattered along a short stretch of Hackle Creek. One crosstie has a small bluish catfish finned into some mud long-settled in the cracked wood. A kingfisher is perched on a dead oak limb. It dives there often, but never nabs anything.

The kingfisherís song
is rattling to autumn trees.
You can whisper now.

You can tell me how the new trains lug thousands of tons of coal to seaports. You can tell me they haul in some solid work for poor folks. Those old locomotives squalled and rolled across the Hackle Creek Bridge like steel elephants butting heads with cliffs. I picture it now where the kingfisher flutters: a train is rounding a swag curve, and it gnarls its own smoke on some school kids jumping rocks in the creek. Iím one of those kids, now aged up like a broken farmhouse, staring at a catfish that never gets caught.

The rail line here has been gone thirty years. From an airplane you can see the flat and empty miles of railroad bed riding like a drunken snake, or a stranded eel held in three curves. I can celebrate the disappearance by dancing in the creek, wading and sloshing and feeling the coldness of the water nudging my hip and knee bonesómy slow cracking bone sounds. I donít jump the rocks these days.

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