She is only bound for Idaho, but her train, the eastbound
Empire Builder, will roll on through night and snow, cross
the wide expanse of Montana, Manifest Destiny reversed.
If only she could remain in the half-light of this coach, lulled
by the rumble and roll, the low lonely whistle sounding across
blankets of snow, entering the dreams of sleeping towns.
But after finally drifting into her own dreams, the words
"rain king" on her tongue, image of a tadpole floating on
an orange sea, the conductor will tap her shoulder.
Outside alone in the snow, she will find the station empty,
the lake frozen solid. From the shoveled path she will call
for a cab, her foot kicking backwards, denting a snow drift.
At the house they will all be asleep, except for her father's
vigilant terrier, on guard at the foot of the hospital bed.
He will want to read Kipling.
He will want to live until spring.
Before Christmas, he will be gone.
But the next day, he will still get up for breakfast.
He will sit in the green recliner and tell her the story:
back in Illinois, the day he decided to head West.