by christine on March 28, 2018

Ghost Railway

A red-winged blackbird trills

by the ghost railway bed.

The memory of a train whistle

ricochets off clouds ballooning

and blackening into thunderheads,

like belching coal smoke

as the bird perches

in wind-washed rushes

and chants for a mate.

*

The distance between you and me

surges like a brook in spring,

too far to jump,

separated by a wing beat.

 

I sit at my mother’s window

watching pine grosbeaks flaunt

red and yellow feathers at the feeder,

scared off by pigeons.

*

A narrow space between

a pair of white birch trees

beyond her window. Sturdy trunks

meld at the root. I remember

two birch saplings bending in the breeze.

The leaves spin like coins in the west wind.

*

A long-legged foal wobbles

in the pasture and nudges onto her mother’s

teat. A quick feed and the mare

trots off. The foal jaunts after her,

flops down, limp and dead

still in the spring sun.

*

In the village, lilacs

wash the old railway yard

in shades of lavender. Blooms

cascade over white porches

by tall brick houses on sleepy

streets. The scent lingers in laundry,

wafts into dreams and masks the sting

of sulphur from the upriver mill.

*

Trilliums flourish along

the ghost railway my ancestors

travelled to the city.

No iron rails, no creosote ties

spark the memory of a train. All

clear for bicycles, skidoos and hikers

to join a trail that crosses the continent.

*

A hollyhock sprouts on the gravel

path. Self-seeded without water

or nurturing. Rooted in bedrock,

it finds a way to flourish.

*

My grandmother planted asparagus

eight decades ago in her kitchen garden.

Now my cousin cuts tender shoots

to share with my ninety-four year old mother.

 

*

 

I pluck rhubarb at the edge

in long evening shadows. No one

in the village lays claim.

*

Serrated like a jagged star

but deep within, I’m ethereal

as the aurora borealis.

 

One translucent constellation

paired with another,

I surrender in your embrace.

*

I find a tunnel for the creek and cattle

under the old railway bed. My voice

echoes off dank walls. In that dark

hideout, I remember the rumbling,

how we played hide and seek.

 

Nearby in a squared log barn,

up in the hay loft, my sister fell

through a hatch to the stone floor.

 

She swallowed her tongue,

turned blue. A cousin ran.

Uncle pulled her tongue back.

We watched her gasp

for breath.

*

Raindrops nestle

on the lady’s mantle,

uplifted.

*

A wedge of blue sky, the trill

of a morning wren, a rush

of wind sighs in the firs.

Our cat lolls on the trail.

 

I release a bumblebee, trapped

in the transom and see

a vulture circling.

*

A bearded iris flutters

purple petals

ruffled one into another

under a solstice moon.

*

A white peony

beside the steaming teapot.

A white peony

in a teardrop salt-glazed vase.

*

My red suitcase, half unpacked,

airport labels trace

trips home and back.

Now empty, the suitcase

and the stories are stuffed

back in the closet

with the clean linen.

 

 

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