So many things change
but the sad sound of a train whistle in the distance
late at night, coming at me
thru the trees, over the sound of cars
is the same distinct tenor
as when I was a girl of five.
Its lament floats rather than pierces,
trails like an exhale of cigarette smoke—
makes the night soft,
and the predictable rhythm that follows—
ca-chunk ca-chunk ca-chunk,
the wheels moving slowly over the tracks—
lulls me complacent.
A series of notes mimics
the long, moaning squeezes of an accordion
playing a monotone song. The rise and fall
recedes and breathes, comes at me again:
remember, remember, remember.
And I can smell the railroad ties
during long summer days in Texas
when my big brothers and I
went out hunting blackberries,
beach buckets slung over our arms.
Scent of tar, of asphalt and scorched wood—
when the sun intensified everything,
and we robbed green vines freshly
flanking the rails, stripping them of their offerings,
our hands full of booty.
The plastic yellow pail I carried
full to the brim, spilling over with juicy
abundance, all I never knew
I would ever have to miss.
Our stained fingertips,
forearms scratched by brambles
marked us guilty, and rich.
Anne Pinkerton’s poetry and essays have appeared in The Sunlight Press, Hippocampus Magazine, Vita Brevis Anthology, River Teeth’s Beautiful Things, Modern Loss, and Stone Gathering, among others. Her memoir will be published by Vine Leaves Press in 2023.