Shining Rock Poetry Anthology

The Great Plains in Fog by Donald Levering

With its clanking sashay and questing horn,
our train rattles along the brink of sleep,
feeling its way through fog, past reeking feedlots
and rocking-horse drill pumps,

rolling by vestiges of towns--
their façades like theater flats emerging
and vanishing in the gauze,
crossing roads leading nowhere known,
hard as we peer into grounded clouds

from which animals appear--
bursts of antelope fleeing the engine's bluster,
throngs of prehistoric boars
standing in cave walls of fog,

my gone father reciting lore
from The Book of Fabulous Beasts,
as we glimpse the cars before ours
rounding curves, disappearing in mist,
and it seems as if we're traveling

backward, the clouds so thick
the glass reflects my brow,
and the sorrow within
for my brother, heavy

as a hundred coal cars,
before we clang past school yards
and tunnel through memory
of his last derangement,
rocked in the train's syncopation,

trailing its unanswered calls.

Donald Levering's most recent poetry book, Coltrane's God, was Runner-Up for the New England Book Festival contest in poetry. He is a former NEA Fellow, as well as winner of the 2014 Literal Latté Award and the 2017 Tor House Foundation Robinson Jeffers Prize.

This poem appeared in the Valpariso Review, XIX, 1, Fall/Winter 2017-2018.  It is
reprinted by permission of the author.
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