Brian Laidlaw

Poet | Songwriter | Educator

The coal in the engine

 

Underneath a frightening sky a window-light was glowing

As though it were a boiler room with a bright red bed of coal

Somewhere inside a woman worked to keep the fire going

Enabling an engine to export the country cargo of her soul

 

When she danced her slender bones were like a model train set

Whose engine moved with grace between the stations of her hands

I waited for a chance to board on each occasion they met

Or else a chance to jump across the junctions in between the iron spans

 

The coal in the engine is not the engine

The light in the tower is not the tower

The man in the woman is not the woman

The water in the river is not the river

 

I don’t know what dancing builds, but it is not a boundary

& In the wind the title lines of pastures were obscured

My muscles, skin, and sweaty clothes were falling all around me

But I couldn’t hang the meaning on the famous golden spike of the word

 

Many counties blew away and we forgot the names

Of desolate and desperate lots untouched by any human

Fences in the dust bowl fell in homesteads without claims

But even with the borders gone, it doesn’t make a union

 

The coal in the engine is not the engine

The light in the tower is not the tower

The man in the woman is not the woman

The water in the river is not the river