Better With Friends
for Paul

Yesterday three friends sat in folding chairs in front of their cars,
waiting for trains.

So naturally this morning, as the fog bears down once again
on the tree line at the back of the yard,

I’m seeking—in prayer—that perfect phrase,
as if memory weren’t powerful enough for the capture.

A few evergreens, rhododendron for hope,
grow on the side of a hill with the orange of the berries of the holly.

The train sounded its whistle,
while dark diesel-smoke rose, drifting above the blue Conrail,

starting where a road crosses the track and a sign says Dendron,
smoke blowing back toward the east, darkening,

for a moment, a small part of the sky. We watched the engineer wave,
as—even in January—we came prepared with blankets for our legs:

Our radios talked and cameras clicked. The train chugged up the Blue Ridge,
the mountain leaf-brown, washed-out, and winter-lovely.

first published in Southern Hum Appalachian Issue