Dust To Dust

Footfalls on the brickwork road many fathers laid
by hand and heavy mallet make a sandy sound.
You can hear, in the dusted scuff, a kind of gasp
as from the crumpled lungs of those bent double
by depression, by wagonloads of work—
you can hear huffs of hot wind kick the dust
around them. You can feel the brickwork give.
This is how the town found a way from starving.
Three summers running: nothing but dust rained down
to choke out cornfields and wheat. The council
paid any man driven to his knees to lay
a road from here to Cedar City to keep working.
They tapped in bricks from the limekiln one season.
They turned each one one-quarter twist the next.
All night, so far, I have waited for the train to come
calling through a cotton curtain on its breeze.
It always does—low as a mourning dove long minutes
over the far, darkening fields and many trees.
How huge the world must be to hear so far
beyond the shade, beyond the grasp of night.
There are apple boughs brushing my fine screen lightly.
And a dozen stars, I know, like pinpricks on an arm.
Before it stops, a train will hiss, grind, clatter
all the way back while its car-locks bang.
Then the engine at idle—hubbub, wood smoke,
and trouble in the hobo camp below the trestle.
How sad the world is to hear nothing for so long.
It always comes. Sweet night wind like cider.

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