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        —for Bill

We went to North Platte to watch trains.

Up before dawn, we found them
      at Sutherland, in the park by the tracks.
And when the sun came up, we saw—too—
the fields, where hundreds of cows stood,
stinking together. We took
photos from the bridge that safely took
schoolchildren over the mainlines.

The sky was a wash, but it didn’t really rain.
An engine idled—ditch lights glowing—
as dawn brightened near a convenience store,
where Luke the conductor was gone for coffee.
                 Then talking to Bill,
he said his inter-modal had left the night before
from Cheyenne: UP 5117—
bottle-necked now with the other trains:
trains carrying cars, oil, the ones
from the Powder River Basin with their weighty
loads of low-sulfur coal—waiting,
ten miles west of North Platte, for orders to move.

Then, on—both we and the trains—
          to the famous Bailey Yard,
eight miles in length, and cold as north wind could
manage in October, as we stood on the Visitor’s Center
platform. Below us were more cows.
And “Oh!” said my urban nose, “Where’s the bathroom?”
I said it, too. (Check the tape). Evergreens
swayed with the wind, twittered with gathering birds.

UP’s yard engines pushed railroad cars—
squealing and screeching—down from the hump,
sorting by destination—both the loaded and the empty—
while 5117 and other road engines refueled
at the Diesel Shop, off to our right.

first published in The Centrifugal Eye

Note: View at Bailey Yard was prior to construction of the Golden Spike Tower.

To enter into solidarity with a suffering person does not mean that we have to talk with that person about our own suffering. Speaking about our own pain is seldom helpful for someone who is in pain. A wounded healer is someone who can listen to a person in pain without having to speak about his or her own wounds. When we have lived through a painful depression, we can listen with great attentiveness and love to a depressed friend without mentioning our experience. Mostly it is better not to direct a suffering person’s attention to ourselves. We have to trust that our own bandaged wounds will allow us to listen to others with our whole beings. That is healing.

emphasis mine

July 2009