Steven Levery

Elegy for a Bindlestiff


Watching a string of boxcars roll through heat waves

behind a crossing gate in Blue Island, Illinois,

I hear in its creeping measure a requiem, rumblesong

for a wayward pilgrim, drifter, and occasional jailbird.


We're orphans now, you said, the summer mom

left us with a distant relative—our father

in a neighborhood I can't remember much

except for the freight yard beyond the broken


fence at the dead end of our street,

playground for a pair of shirtless boys

drawn to the perilous labyrinth of low iron

at the edge of town. At night we felt


the thunder of coupling, the banshee keening

of burnished steel on steel, while a damp

fever of forgetfulness crept out of the air

to settle on our shoulders as we slept, delivered


to a world far from empiricalit was boundless,

it was what we craved, it was far enough

to sense a change in the rhythm of time,

like the high frequency Doppler shifting to


low when the engine passes. A koan:

what is the sound of eternity? It is the sound

of fog breaking over a meadow somewhere

between Weeping Water and Wahoo, Nebraska.


We could hear it every morning if we lived there,

or in one quiet moment from a train held on a siding,

while we waited for the eastbound Special to pass.

It was finite, it was the end, it was what we saved


for awakening into the mortal pale,

where the mandala spins, shrieks, and keeps

hard to the rail.

Born in Queens, New York, Steven Levery is currently living in Denmark and working at the University of Copenhagen. His fictions, poetry, and random jottings have appeared semi-regularly in print journals such as Spindrift and The Greensborough Review; around the web at sites such as Word Riot, Boston Literary Magazine, Blue Lake Review, 100 word story, Jersey Devil Press, and Litsnack; and at his blogsite,



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