Donald Levering: “The Great Plains in Fog”


With its clanking sashay and questing horn,
our train rattles along the brink of sleep,
feeling its way through fog, past reeking feedlots
and rocking-horse drill pumps,

rolling by vestiges of towns—
their façades like theater flats emerging
and vanishing in the gauze,
crossing roads leading nowhere known,
hard as we peer into grounded clouds

from which animals appear—
bursts of antelope fleeing the engine’s bluster,
throngs of prehistoric boars
standing in cave walls of fog,

my gone father reciting lore
from The Book of Fabulous Beasts,
as we glimpse the cars before ours
rounding curves, disappearing in mist,
and it seems as if we’re traveling

backward, the clouds so thick
the glass reflects my brow,
unveiling there the sorrow
for my brother, heavy

as a hundred coal cars,
before we clang past school yards
and tunnel through memory
of his last derangement,
rocked in the train’s syncopation,

trailing its unanswered calls.

Donald Levering’s seventh full-length poetry book, Coltrane’s God, was the Runner-Up for the New England Book Festival contest in poetry. He is a former National Endowment for the Arts fellow, as well as a winner of the 2014 Literal Latté Poetry Award and the 2017 Tor House Robinson Jeffers Prize.

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