Near the Tracks

Someone should put up a plaque.

“Boy crushed by train here” --
a page 1 story in 1910,
but today you find no proof of his death.

You stand 
near the tracks
in the railyard
at the center of this dying farm town -- 
not a train in sight -- 
and imagine the bustle of long ago.

The train men, sooty and coarse; 
the trains themselves: big, black, smoking. 
And the boy doing a man’s job:
“Marking cars” – whatever that means. 
He stepped backward when he should have stepped forward
and that was it.

“Killed by an Engine,” the yellowed headline said.

The grain mills, the brick buildings,
the train station with its mahogany floors,
even the empty coffee shop across the way -- 
all those things the same back then.
But of the horror, the despair, the heartbreak -- 
there is no sign.

No sound of trains, either, the sound that drove his mother crazy.
So distraught that she moved out of town 
and kept on moving 
until she finally stopped
so that your grandmother could someday meet your grandfather
and now here you are.

Someone should put up a plaque.

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