Rain, Steam, and Speed by Kyle McCord

After Rain, Steam and Speed–The Great Western Railway, 1844
For these boys it’s the closest they’ll come
          to church genuflected beyond

the tree line a vestibule where jewelweed
          and foxglove needle hairless
limbs goosebumps rise
          on their eager skin one giggles
                    and is mothered

back to reverence
          they are a verge of gibbering flies
                    then the rumble trembles dew

soggy clover the flowers are weak
          petitioners brought to their knees

this train like Turner’s
          Pentecostal tongue pieces them

oh hands oh sides weak as India paper
          it closes on the epileptic rail
                    they are mad with its power

and it’s then the youngest sees
          his grubby penny tip off the rail

to be nothing itself
          and suddenly he is up
                    and racing

what happens next
          is a story in figures and fingers
                    too easy to sever maybe

he will close the distance
          oh boy rising toward
                    this pauper’s alter make it

the other boys scream
          to move back there will be
                    more days like this they are shrill

because who can say the wheels will settle
          at the knuckle at the wrist

we want it to be less
          the train so close now
          I want to unwrite what brought him here

but what whets like blood
          and this verse does not ask a wrist
but a whole boy
          the only whom we love
Kyle McCord is the author of five books of poetry including National Poetry Series Finalist Recklessness and Light (Trio House 2016). He has work featured in AGNI, Boston Review, Crazyhorse, The Gettysburg Review, Harvard Review, Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, TriQuarterly and elsewhere. His book was selected as one of the top five books of the year by the Poetry Foundation Blog. He has received grants from the Academy of American Poets, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Baltic Writing Residency. He teaches at Drake University in Des Moines.