Caught by a train after East Palestine, Ohio
The gates fall and we come
to a halt, the dull clink
of the crossing's bell,
lost above the screeching
wheels on the track.
I count the cars, my wife on her phone,
I name the armored trucks they carry.
Fourteen M113s, heading for the port,
she smiles at my observation,
I grimace at their likely destination.
The gates come up and fall again,
we don't move an inch, another train
laden with oil and gas and chemicals
the black tankers, like hornets,
yellow-striped, so you know they're dangerous.
Finally we are free
to get our groceries home and up
the stairs, cats bawling for their dinner,
fifteen minutes late,
the little shits begging at their bowls.
I cannot tell them of the danger
we are in, the tracks laid
outside the window, the blowing
of the horn is enough to make them skitter.
I wouldn't even if I could.
They stretch on and on
in both directions, past the rubber plant
and over the bayou, the water brown,
not conscious of the warped rail
that could kill it in an instant.
John Rutherford works at Lamar University in Beaumont, TX and has been published in the Texas Poetry Assignment, the Concho River Review and Z Publishing's Best New and Emerging Poets of Texas.