>Slow Newsreel of Man Riding Train (cont’d–Part I.3)

Against the amber of the observation car lamps
speeding through the Ozark night, lunar moths feed.

Brandy is being served. Lucius Beebe
has just finished his dinner of wood pheasant

taken on at Terre Haute in a shooting basket.
He is having his nails manicured. Beside him

My father has fallen asleep over his cigar,
the ash extending intact over the cuspidor stamped

with the coat of arms of the Southern Pacific Railway Co.
In the distance a dog barks. Cuspidor, brandy glasses

my father’s silver cigar cutter lying on the table
all vibrate infinitesimally. They are sending

secret messages which are answered in semaphor
by the tips of my father’s sadly drooping mustache.

We have just stopped at Walla Walla to take on ice water
and move on, in the direction of Shoshone

and Leadville, after first setting our watches ahead.
My father is dreaming. He dreams:

he is the captain of the Pennsylvania Rail System
He holds in his mind an ideal time-table

He is responsible for all schedules everywhere
even the commuter schedles
On damp days he must repair sections of track
He has assumed the whole burden of snow removal.

Bhullilly bhullikky bhullikky bhullikky bhullikky
bllkk bllkk bllkk bllkk bllkk bllkk bllkk
llkkk llkkk llkkk llkkk llkkkOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
The train zooms through the feathered night.
Its heavy curtains have been pulled down.
it goes through the sleeping towns
like a migration of spores
from the underside of a mushroom.
In its locked berths the sleepers are soaring like arrows.

–from Slow Newsreel of Man Riding Train, by Robert Nichols, published by City Lights Books, 1962

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