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Poetry  – 

A Footnote to the History of the New York Central Railroad

 

Grand Central bustled at one end of it
and Chicago’s Union Station roared at the other,
all its miles the result of chairmen of boards
and barons and superintendents and stockholders
determined to keep the original Colonies
connected to the Heartland and down the graded
slope to division managers, to subordinate
section managers and section bosses
and their section gangs responsible for the tracks,
for keeping them straight and steady and well tamped
with gravel around and under the crossties
weatherproofed with creosote. There the tie plates,
held in place by spikes, gripped at the rails
and held them down for miles and miles and miles
while freight and passengers rumbled over them.
A fifteen-year-old boy, with an imaginary
Social Security card and loud instructions
and daily demonstrations, for two long weeks
for a few long yards in a switchyard west of Gary,
with a spike maul whose head was exactly the same
size as the head of a spike, kept trying to hit one
square on the head and didn’t and couldn’t and quit.