Hot Metal Bridge

Current Issue : Number Twenty-Five

Dear Empire [these are your engines]


These are your engines. The weighty ingots held inside the freight cars spark with friction at the sudden stops and starts. There is livestock in the back cars. Dung smells roll forward as the engine slows.


Sometimes there are breaks in the line and the engineers have to jump from the cab to the ground with shovels, shoeing in the sand and ties before starting again. In times when there is no movement, there is also no sound, save the thud of an animal’s tail as it strikes the sides of its carriage.


Today, like every day, the tracks can seize from menace and weather. The black sheen of the rail frames stretch like a spine towards the coast. The animals know some things about where they go. We know they wait for us with their ears to the ground.

Oliver de la Paz is the author of three collections of poetry: Names Above Houses, Furious Lullaby, and Requiem for the Orchard. He is the co-author of A Face to Meet the Faces: An Anthology of Persona Poetry and co-chair of the Kundiman advisory board. He teaches at Western Washington University.