MARCH 2005

> sometimes i hear a train (train whistle blues) | dean mcclain

Sometimes I hear a train
hauling away the coal and timber heart
of Eastern and Southern Kentucky
The whistle blows, dogs bark
and coyotes soar the howling night
Beyond the winking skies

Sometimes I hear a train
mile and a half away and
I Johnny Cash it or
Roll with The Stones,
all embody
Robert Johnson's Jimmy Rogers'
Woody Guthrie's spirit,
which is the lonesome freedom
of all who've transcribed the
social impact trains had
as an intangible force in our
immediacy-blurred society
Johnson blues to document
a new loss to steel clacking earth memory
of days-gone-by-trains
whose merciless tons of crush
thundered through dreams
of railroad children everywhere
flattening nickels and throwing rocks
down the one big track
into other worlds
somewhere out back

Sometimes I hear a train
and a funny feeling
warms through my chest and
tingles its way throughout
the body until I'm bursting
with joy to be that sad
its steel journey memories reverberating
through this internet shrunken earth
in mutual retro
obsoletus maximus inevitability
and I think about prisons
Folsom Prison Blue,
Riker's, potter's fields
Bird Man of Alcatraz
Eddyville, Northpoint
frozen soul & body cages
and less obvious
captured-mind prisons
lying between
grand social dichotomy

Sometimes I hear a train
and think about it hauling
America where it needs to be,
and that by the time we get the land
rearranged to our liking,
when mines are all mined
and autos all rusted
against layered dynamite hills,
there will still be trains
hauling despair somewhere
behind some other mountain
to build, haul and flatten forever
as train whistles anchor the
some thing some part of us
that we hear
in the middle of the night alone
all alone,
personal piercing whistles
splitting nights
zapping us peacefully
within our individual
fascination and desire beneath
the life of the mind the itch and scratch
of a day's struggle with
future groceries, vacations
dreams of dreams melding memory
first ice cream
first real bicycle ride
first touch first base first bra
the first neck kiss the first anxious smooth nipple
and lower into
mystery forest scent
the train coming rumbling woo oo-oo!
somewhere beyond sometimes when
I hear a train I flat hear a woman's
insides locomotive-like
churning our desire's reality
into sweet earthly fantasy

And sometime I hear
loco-motive rumblings of dismal trains
carrying thousands of young soldiers
on last rite rides through perverted scenery
impressionable minds mull
unbelievable truth for maybe
the first last time in their lives
No more skateboards no being a kid
For us, no more baseball cards and DC Comics
Justice League America trading
behind the house, a rock's easy toss to
the railroad track that cradled us to easy
rocking rhythm sleep
its steel beams wheels railing freight
into endless spilled ink blood America
as if trains went on forever
gleaning night too massive
for burgeoning masses who
could never stop anywhere but far away
for the train stops for no one but
its good men sweating the sun
freezing the cold maintaining
track and train as in days gone
golden railroad spikes
and a Chinaman's chance
but it's not the same
it's never the same ever
anymore anytime anywhere
I've been working on the Railroad
All the livelong days of
life's organic ironic blink-

I think sometimes
When I hear a train

> BIOGRAPHY | about the author

Dean McClain is a native of Kentucky and a long-time member of the Viking Hillbilly Apocalypse Revue. He has published two volumes of poetry entitled Splitsville and Exit Netherville.