Along the river heaving its last ice
against the bony ridges bent
as if to drink from the molten cold,
drive and glance across the churn

the black glide of a coal train
snaking the mountainside still white
on its northern slope, each slender tree
a stroke of wood and stroke of shadow,

and speed together to become air
and lift from the gray road, out
of the valley, from the dammed
flow and the perilous curve

into a lightness quicker than fire
and a rising in the gut caught between
a laugh and a howl, as if with the train
on this road out of the mountains,

a soul could outrun the earth,
forget the old bridges and sunless hollows,
the houses rattled when each run
shakes the few cups in their rooms,

and the red lights glimmer at the crossings,
the trail behind the train and road
a map erasing itself, as if the earth
can open and take whatever stops.


Gabriel Welsch writes fiction and poetry, and is the author of four collections of poems, the most recent of which is The Four Horsepersons of a Disappointing Apocalypse (Steel Toe Books, 2013). His work appears recently in Moon City Review, Adroit Journal, Gulf Coast, Crab Orchard Review, Chautauqua, Pembroke Review, Tahoma Literary Review, and Mid-American Review. He lives in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, with his family, works as Vice President of Strategic Communications and Marketing at Juniata College, and is an occasional teacher at the Chautauqua Writer’s Center.