Karroo Train By Night

A raging sunset, indigo twilight, and sudden
cold. Unsleeping he lay on a middle berth,
alone, his face in the gritty wind.

Below him, rocky dirt flutters in the pallid
glow from windows where his schoolmates frolic;
beyond the light, a haunt of dark shapes.

Past midnight, stiffening cold creeps
under his coarse blanket; the lowering heads
of frosty cattle slip by.

A slate sky speckled with rime stages
his ghostly ink-blot parade of nubbly kopjes
and table-topped blotches of hills and trees.

Abruptly, a fence whipping by. Catching his breath,
he leans forward into the cold, his searching
eyes congeal in the chafing wind.

Ahead, a smudge of eucalyptus, a skeletal windmill
against the sky. Soon, an oily light
flickering yellow in a window.

Why are they awake? Is someone ill?
Dying? Dead? Don’t they have telephones?
Doctors? Plumbing?

The light narrows, shrinks, passes away.
He pulls up the window, covers his head
against the cold.

Counts the chinks in the track.

Do girls live there?

Miamisburg, Ohio, 2013