Life is Like a Train

Hear now, life is like a train:
it thunders towards vanishment
on a rail, though you don’t
believe in rails. The truth is,
it doesn’t matter. On the train
behind you are many people
who you sometimes pal with
at off-hours, in the bar-car,
or a sleeper, balled together
like spouses. But these are
only passengers, and you
aren’t a traveler. In the engine,
you shovel coal for your life.
Bending and straining,
sweat thick as birth, dust
clinging as clothes to your skin,
all black and molten.
On breaks, you poke your head
out into the battering wind,
the landscape behind dark
and winding as water
toward a drain. The world
alongside is a passing smudge,
the land ahead clear as stars,
as slow to change. Then
one day, a porter from the lounge
finds you in your furious work
and tells you that you are in fact
the engineer, the man on the stick.
And you reply that it is impossible:
you only shovel coal and look
sometimes out the drafty hatch
at the world, scuffling past.
But of course, he says, it’s only
natural; you are the engineer.