When I was a boy, wasting slack
summer, I’d sprawl on my belly beside
the CNR railway tracks, listening
for the dayliner on its clickety-clak
from Sherbrooke into Montreal. Most
days the train flew by. But on special
July days kissed with mystery the
ratty flag would rise from the back
of the two-car train, and a bundle
of mail would tumble into the weeds.
Or a passenger descend, blinking
against the sunshine at me behind
the tiger lillies and feverfew. Like a
ferret in the undergrowth. Today,
the engineer smiles as he passes,
consults his silver watch without stopping,
at precisely3:23. His mail bag
empty of surprise. The train does
not stop beside the tickweed anymore.
Mr. Parrott does not stumble off
the train after half a dozen pilseners.
nor would I wish it so if he could.