Beside the railroad tracks
                                                      (…was that fear I heard rising in her voice?)
My hands shoved in my pocket
                                                      (…trying to ask, calmly, “Please don’t hang up.”)
I hear my mother’s voice echo. “It’s your fault that I have to be with your father.”
                                                      (I know that she was scared. I am too.)
Kicking the gravel, watching it fall, hitting a rock, then hitting a stone
                                                      (…trying to reason with me, “Let’s both get some sleep. It’ll be better…”)
Past hysteria, my brain has shut down. I no longer believe in

(“In surviving”)
In surviving.
                                                      (things will get better,” I hear her promise.)
And no longer running, trying to beat the train. I can not speak. I have no voice.
                                                      (I heard this so many times before. The promise never fulfilled.)
The bright lights flicker and distort the shadowy figures.
                                                      (Her voice so far away; going further away.)
The far off horns, approaching, getting louder, blaring. It is loud enough to wake the dead.
                                                      (…”Can you still hear me? I want you please to wait.”)
I imagine the flesh, blood and bones grinding, mixing under the wheels, into the rails
                                                      (“Hello? Hello?!”)
I felt a light mist falling just before the dawn.

—Petrovnia McIntosh, Madison, WI