Stenciled letters emblazoned in yellow
On every black coal car that roared too fast
Past his window.
He got dizzy and stopped counting at forty-nine
And just stared. Mesmerized.
But they kept passing
Until there were no more.
His vantage point so narrow he never saw the end coming.
When the rumbling subsided, the warm salty silence
Coursed through him again.
He lifted his eyes to the river beyond the tracks where something:
Ducks, geese, gulls, buzzards, crows, tow boats, was always happening.
Except now-everything blanketed in a frigid winter fog
The color of rumpled old bedsheets
Revealing nothing but the darkly spectral fingers of denuded maples
And the big sycamore
Sliding in and out of focus
on the near mud bank.
Still he stared, willing something to happen.
It probably wouldn’t.
As would happen at times like this, he remembered.
He was in bed. That he knew.
But it seemed to be daylight-not night.
Was there light coming through the thick drapes,
Or was it a lamp?
He was young. Not little, little…but young.
You’re not going to like this, she said, sitting on the bed beside him;
Causing him to slide toward her.
Why was she in her underpants if it was day time?
He remembered “turbidity” from his years on the boats.
It referred to particulates-mud, sand, what have you,
Clouding the water.
Was there a similar measurement for air? Or for the fog that pulsed and pressed?
Or for memories? Or his own soul?
The more he stripped away, the cloudier everything became.
Upstairs a thump as the cat jumped off the bed
Probably smelling potato chips.
He sprinkled some small fragments on the floor.
He didn’t mind sharing.