Lonesome Sound Old man said he could hear that whistle blow a hundred miles and they could write a song about that. Said he could tell how many cars a train freighted just by how sad was its wail. Old man said trains usually sounded out at crossings or towns or coming upon another train. Said No. 149 out of Sioux City left the towns 200 miles back. Had no call to think about meeting another train 'til Lander. Or maybe Crawford. Old man said keening cross the plains like that only thing took it to heart was coyotes and jack rabbits. Mayhap a snake or two sunning hisself on the rails. Said, last run she made, leaned on her whistle from the Missouri straight through to the Rockies Never let up just hollered cross the land like the world come undone. Like something lost couldn't never be right again. I said how that train was probly thinking of the long empty plains ahead. Of fenceposts ticking by and cattle scabbing up the buffalo grass. Thinking of passing unseen and unheard the grassed-over soddies hunched at springs once piped now trickling through old stock ponds. Of empty match-box homesteads timber-bleached and bowed before the vast order of sun and sky. Of tilted windmills wheeling, listless, as a fly wing-plucked and turning, turning round on bleary heat-cracked panes what look myopic upon the prairie the grass, the sky, the land to come. Old man looked at the middle distance. Said life's blood of the rail line was the livestock. With the ranchers went that train. Don't know but she wailed for the thought of her last pull through the pass into Lander stockyards. Or for what she maybe wouldn't find coming out t'other side.
Cheryl L. Higgins's Questions:
I am most interested in technical comments regarding line endings, and what
isn't working for a reader with this, if anything.
I have let myself sit away from this for a couple months, having 'worked it to death'. I love it, but the second and last stanzas, while integral to the poem's balance/meaning bog down to me. Unless, in reading it, you all enjoy them just fine? Please let me know what works and doesn't for you all. I am also fiddling and re-fiddling with line breaks and not happy with these, but not able to like any others any better, effect-wise.
Please note, any that are astute enough to notice the geograpy may be wrong. I am not going to submit this to any publication until I can be certain historically of the rail line I am going to refer to. This one may not have gone into lander, it also may not have this history. There are other old rail lines I migiht be able to use across Neb/Ok/Wyom and maybe montana. Anyone who knows some old rail history on the plains especially one that ran through the rocky mountains and would like to share privately e-mail, perhaps, would be appreciated...