OBJECT: Freight Train
BODY OF WATER: Hudson River
There were four men on that train in 1865,
and all the other passengers just belongings
and the baggage of stranger souls. A Wednesday
evening. No fog. The signal given as the bridge
divided and the sloop went past. The Catskills
peeking over Peekskill like sad lovers
at a funeral. Two men hoping for a free ride
south from Albany jumping into water
to survive the crash. And the other two
drowning. And all those ignorant travellers
moving or standing miles away not knowing their things
were lost. A book of tintype photographs wearing
at its seams. The faded signature of a father. A stone
smoothed and taken from Lake Tear of the Clouds.
An hour north, a man drunk from whiskey
wandered onto the tracks and was struck.
And from that same train, another man fell
from motion sickness off the car and died.
It was all death that day. Death of memories,
and death of things that hold them. And not even
a chance to reach the city, where some stranger
might have dusted off a shirt now drowned
to dance his wife around a room and make it swirl
with the rhythm and life of things. The next day
the trains ran without delay, as usual, over that narrow
stretch of man-built land that sliced the Hudson
in two, over buoyant belongings and two dead men
finding cause to still float like children playing.
And the mountains rolled and watched, as lovers do,
some mornings, still under sheets, watching each other,
their curves of flesh like earthen things, topographic
and, even in motion, still. Just over a month later,
the train carrying Lincoln’s body rolled slow and forever,
this time north above that thin bridge where such deaths
had occurred. And people gathered at the water
to watch those nine cars pass by. And some lowered
their heads. Just as now, in this city, some stranger dies
at the moment I drop a penny. And I stoop low
and bend my chin, not knowing any circumstance
other than that there are some things worth
taking, and some worth letting go.
Devin Kelly is an MFA student at Sarah Lawrence College, where he serves as the nonfiction editor of LUMINA. His poetry, fiction, and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Armchair/Shotgun, Post Road, RATTLE, The Millions, Appalachian Heritage, Midwestern Gothic, Meat for Tea, apt, Big Truths, Kindred, Dunes Review, Steel Toe Review, Cleaver Magazine, Passages North, Lines & Stars, and District Lit. He co-hosts the Dead Rabbits Reading Series in Upper Manhattan, and teaches Creative Writing and English classes to 7th graders and high schoolers in Queens, as well as the occasional children’s poetry workshop at the New York Public Library in Harlem, where he currently lives. You can find him on Twitter @themoneyiowe.