And the people come out of the small towns,
and the cows come out of the cow towns,
and the ghosts come out of the ghost towns,
to wave at the trains
speeding by their backyards
Hi train. Bye train. Predictable as the sun and the moon,
the Empire Builder barrels down.
Howard talks a lot;
It's hard to get a word in edgewise.
But who needs words and points?
When the green is growing as the mountains rise up.
And the valleys open-up revealing rivers flowing.
Scene-scapes flying past the panoramic glass,
And Howard knows it all.
A Native American smuggled hooch on board at Havre.
He shared and was generous,
but he got somewhat mad rather quickly.
He just wanted to meet people, here and in the towns.
To Glacier west he was headed.
He wanted to meet me.
He'd never see any of us again,
not me nor Harvey.
"Please, do this for me," he said,
brandishing the pint of cheap whisky.
The 4 P.M. sun shone through the bottle.
Just a little bit more.
I declined. Drunkenness in transit,
whilst in the midst of Montana
seems a perilous business.
He would do it, he says.
I had to go.
I sat next to a little boy,
in blue pajama pants,
who liked to kiss his mom.
All the while she stared off into the distance.
She was looking for signs of life.
I met an old man
had a daughter
who met the president.
Obama, that is.
He told me of the changing landscape in Ann Arbor.
And of playing the flute,
In the Army band,
For John F. Kennedy.
He told me of a man,
Who tore down a silo,
An old, old silo,
And used the wood,
Polished by years of falling grain,
To build floors.
He was on his way
to see his old college roommates
The sun lays down a silvery glaze o'er the ponds.
It is morning in North Dakota.
When the lights go dim,
the noises come out.
Creeks and rattles and clicks.
Listen: there's an eerie horn,
sounding as a ghost in the distance.
Standing in my bare feet,
on a train platform,
in St. Paul.
I stretch my legs.