No gazette ran the story,
but where rails cross and the post office
is ever under threat from an absence
of correspondence, the past was touched by blood.
Though most landowners
and tenants whose opinions are rented
will scowl and swear Never,
a few local tongues promise they know better,
that rain rinsed the ties and steel by morning,
leaving only absence and of late, a ghost
most evident in winter. All this in the wicked
fifties, nightriders rushing down unpaved lanes,
some say Nash and others Mercury,
always in a whisper. High summer,
light in the sky waning, dust like a drought storm.
Sisal rope or trace chain? A gun butt,
a boy from the shadows shoved under.
Roar and rattle of coal cars, then the hush,
all because a girl with ginger hair
listened to her sister who said a week after
the midnight encounter,
you better claim FORCE if you want to live
this side of New York City,
so force it was where before the culprit was more
gin and moonlight, I was so lonely
he had such lovely skin like creamed up coffee
his taste more sweeter than any honey,
and gentle hands, so gentle.
The sheriff’s guess: Missing? Lazy. Most likely
waited till the engine slowed on a steep, went north
in a open boxcar
with his all sass and hunger for easy money.
Good riddance and not missed by nary soul.
Now along the river’s meander
after the locomotive’s shrill has faded
the general opinion is the so-called ghost
is no human cry at all but a fox
red by nature and not a racing train,
though the ghost rumor persists
especially on wintry nights like this –
moon red and even the shadows shivering
as the mail truck pulls in, breaks
locking on freezing rain,
till it skids to a stop in the silvered dark,
thanks to its chains.