River Stones and Copper Pennies
On this trip even our campsite is near the rail.
We build our fire in the pit beside the river and
watch as our children skip stones.
The river is quick and cold but they’re safe enough.
The banks are wide and level, pebbled with miles of
stones rubbed flat by river water, perfect for skipping
so smooth and flat they love the feel of them
in their hand, on their cheeks,
heavy in their pockets.
The sound of river water wakes me
takes me twice to the outhouse,
my jacket slipped on against the mountain air
my hands shoved in my pockets fingers playing with
river stones and lint covered coins
I feel it first,
feel it in the distance,
feel it coming,
feel the rhythm in my belly
If I hurry I can still make it.
Scrabble up the hillock moonlight at my back,
through wolf willow and scrub until I
come to the track, put the first penny down,
then the second, third, fourth
Oh cripes, I’m giggling like a girl, like a ten year old girl
and I mark each spot with a river stone
Sliding down I crouch in a copse,
fingers crossed in empty pockets, waiting
Six red engines arrive one after the other pulling a mile of train,
a mile of food and fuel (yellow hopper cars still my favorite)
rumbling past while I hide in the bushes
When the train has gone, round a bend and into the mountain
lost to the night, I jump onto the track.
The rails are warm and one penny is waiting for me
flattened to an oval, smooth as a river stone