Song of the Rail

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Poetry  |  House: Booksie Classic


SONG OF THE RAIL

Hot, black iron once jerked and swayed Crushing rails that showed The scuffs and scars From a million wheels That thundered down the road

Berkshires, Yellowstones, Challengers, too What graceful power did roll this way There were Texas types and four-eight-fours Each with its job Each in its day

Wheat and hogs, lumber and logs Troops and bricks and coal If strength was the beating heart of American steam Ribbons of steel on beds of stone Surely made up its soul

There are paintings of engines And photos galore On postcards, on stamps, on bottles Depicting the lives and the passing of these And of some who grasped their throttles

Yet, for all their might and majesty When through the Rockies they’d weave T’was the humble rails that were first to come And will be the last to leave

I am a nonfiction, technical writer who wrote this poem out of inspiration in 2005. As a young man in love with the idea of being a rock star, I wrote many songs. But the verse in 2005 came from a need to write it. Just north of Marysville, Washington, there was a siding that crossed from the west side of the highway to the east and disappeared into the distance. Much of its view was masked by the tall grass into which the warped rails disappeared.

It reminded me of so many people I have known in my church. They are not the movers and shakers who everyone looks up to or feels the need to emulate. They are the quiet ones who are often overlooked. But when there are things to be done: a conference, a party, a talent show, or the like, they are the first to roll up their sleeves to set up tables and chairs, the first to help serve the meal if that’s what’s needed, and the last to go home—tired but smiling—as they finish the clean-up. They are the rails. They wait to be needed but happily come out of obscurity when they are. They receive no fanfare for their contributions and require none. They just slip away ... until the next time they are needed.


Submitted: October 29, 2020

© Copyright 2020 William J. Cook. All rights reserved.

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