I never saw the iron horse
whose course stalked mine. I saw
lights flash red in other people’s eyes, heard
a cold, shrill whistle in the words they spoke.
skeletal rattles like the clatter of tracks.
Tickles of smoke stung my nostrils, tremors
rolled under my feet. Once
at a crossing I heard
a whine, felt a knife slice air
into ripples across my face
but saw nothing there-
the way sun’s light frosts
forest green, pine needles appear to shiver
though the day is warm,
that sort of illusion-
I thought if I stretched my hand into its path
it would pass right through me. I would feel
the shake and sway
of boxcars all up my arm
but could draw back uninjured in its wake.
The real illusion.
At night by orange vapor lights
anonymous switchmen went about
their silent work, set wheels
to rails that in time
would bear that thundering
force on our collision course.
I didn’t look. I didn’t see.