Ore Train, Early Morning
The arm with the flashing red light comes down,
and who doesn’t enjoy a train speeding by
with the clack of the wheels and the tat-tat-
tat of the burnished rails slapping down
on creosote ties in the post-dawn chill?
Quite a sight, too, as I think of it now,
forty years on, how the mist shimmers off,
mothlike, from hot ore pellets bedded high
in rust-brown cars. A moment to fight for
as the name speeds by, DMIRR, DMIRR
a song of steel rushing out of the dark,
holding me while a moment draws out
that could last forever, for all I cared then,
for all I care now. Then a hard winter sun
stirs up the wind, the first of the morning,
whips snow over ballast and cinders,
moans in the curve and sway of the spruce—
and the train disappears on its way to Duluth.
On the day he died, I left
the mourning to my mother.
Poor Mom, there wasn’t much
mourning by her, either. Not much
that I could see. No keening, no casket,
no celebration of his life, fond tales and fifths
of single-malt. No headstone. Was there an urn?
Were ashes tossed into a breeze that floated him out
to sea? Although, as an Ohio boy, Dad didn’t love the sea.
There is no treasured spot that I could visit now, now that I’m
feeling that I should. We scattered Mom’s at my sister’s house,
which she later sold. The ashes of a friend we scattered at the farm
my daughter moved from not long after. Moved horses, saddles,
blankets, left-over feed, and tack—to a new farm that one day
could become my resting place. And so we move, we all
move on. What I remember—and some was good—
is that he taught me to carry a rifle pointed down
and hold my fists up—but always kick a bully
in the nuts. He tried to teach me the art of
looking down my nose, but that’s one
lesson I never got. Although his
DNA survives it’s not through
me, the adopted son. I didn’t
carry the nucleotide necklace
of his obscure Hungarian line.
Footnote: he had a favorite happy-hour glass,
into which, this afternoon, I pour cheap gin and squeeze a lime.
David Salner’s debut novel, A Place to Hide, won first place for historical fiction from Next Generation Indie Book Awards. His fourth poetry collection is The Stillness of Certain Valleys. His poetry has appeared in Threepenny Review, Iowa Review, North American Review, and Ploughshares. He was the subject of Innisfree 33’s Closer Look, which featured a retrospective of 25 poems drawn from his four books. https://www.innisfreepoetry.org/innisfree-33/a-closer-look-david-salner/.