The Train Poem

The railroad men plant thirty different kinds of cabbage
next to the tracks on their days off, when the sun repents;
it is all they can do to prevent their own deaths
without having to worry about thirty whitish heads
that barely protrude from the makeshift garden,
but they do it anyway. It's a domestic sort of thrill,
to produce life from between clumsy, calloused fingers
that touch nothing but metal and wood all day.

It rarely rains upon the graveyard just beyond the tracks, and when it does
the train slows down for the wandering peacocks and their ghostly strut;
stops for the solemn oaks that stoically guard the old burying ground -
somewhere under all the shade and dying ground lies truth:

It is found in crumbling bucketfuls of dirt
and wetness underneath fingernails,
and it is found in the pockets of dirty overalls,
denim so worn mothers can only shake their heads
at the carelessness of their sons.

There are buckets of paint trailed in a morose code on the cold metal.
They've just been used to paint the backdrop for the graveyard;
the men draw from memory, the visions seared on their sweating napes.

Sometimes before the end of the day the sun gives them a break
and then they would like to take the time to appreciate the breathtaking transition
viewable from raised tracks, but they are always distracted:

Trains afflicted with tuberculosis cough up smoke from their lungs
into billowing handkerchiefs in the sky, cleaner than those
the men keep in back pockets. Somehow they always fall out;
someone below must have a nice collection of dirty cloth squares by now.

Nobody can guess where these men sleep at night,
or if they have wives waiting for their nightly arrival.
Perhaps they prepare a broth from the very same cabbages
their husbands grow in raised-track backyards,
and perhaps they have children who have already grown used to
the stench of dirt, the fragrance of gravestone bouquets.