Picking Up Steam
by Liz Dolan

My father was a car knocker,
the handmaiden of the locomotive
as it rested, sweated in the Oak Point yard,
en route to Hartford and New Haven.
After his calloused fingers secured
her pistons, bolts, and screws,
he'd rap his iron wrench
on her corrugated door signaling
her safety to the engineer.

Royal, magisterial, her black-velvet flanks
illuminated by the fat summer moon,
she'd snort smoke, whistling her high soprano,
Tirnagog kicking up pebbles,
lapping the American miles.
And my father, an immigrant,
ebonized by her grease,
a part of it, a part of it, a part of it.

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