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GRANDFATHER'S ENGINES

GRANDFATHER'S ENGINES

 

                             Lonesome whistle blows

                           Iron dragon of the plains;

                             Today, wilts the rose.

 

            I took a walk today

            In a place called Traveltown

            A railroad museum

            Where locomotives,

               Steam, diesel, electric

            Abound.

            There were Pullman cars

            And cattle cars,

            Tenders, trollies, and cabooses galore,

            All made safe

            For children to explore.

 

                  The effect

                  To see these engines derelict

                  Was both awesome and sad

                     Awesome

                        And sad.

 

            Grandfather,

            I touched your engine today . . .

               Cold iron of the boiler's door

               welded shut for children's play;

            I read your engine numbers

               White paint on black

               Peeling in the sun

               98, 1544, Ol' Number One;

            I rang the bell with no clapper

               remembering you in your funny hat

               and grey stripes so dapper;

            I looked in the cars as they've sat

               these many summers back:

                  The stately club car

                  With its plush saloon,

                  Rough wood caboose

                  With brass spittoon,

                  Boxcar of rotten wood,

                  Passenger car platform

                  where the Conductor stood . . .

 

               Grandfather,

                  They say the railroad's

                     Day is past,

                     But we know that's a lie!

                           This isn't a park

                                 It's where old engines are

                                       brought to die!

 

            Grandfather,

               What happened?

            Why did we allow

            Our engines to be laid so low?

            And I know it was we,

            One hundred ten year ago

            I drove the old 83.

               Awesome and sad,

            To have lost what once we had:

            Your high wheeler

               Cold in live oak shade,

            Mine rusting in some

               Forgotten glade . . .

            Ah, how I wish I could see

               Them running with a head of steam

               And free!

 

            But, still the children play.

            They ring the bell that will never peal,

            And pull the brake lever

               To imaginary squeal,

            And crawl about the beached body

               Of a leviathan in steel.

 

                  Ah, how I wish I could see

                  Them running

                  With a head of steam

                     And free!

 

                                          7 Apr 84

 


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