The desert has filled.
The dunes, once cut only by wild
winds and wild jackrabbits, have new scars:
tattered tracks that line the bedrock,
mined from the molten flow
I hear them in the night:
the trains. The whistle,
like the cuckoo in the clock,
sounds each hour: a howl,
a scream, an owl-cry,
the harbinger of the rattling cars,
the hollow thump
of an engine faraway.
The headlights, jaundiced wolf-eyes,
cast their jaded stare over the blackened desert,
cut the smoke, the long thin stream
of condensed breath, huffed out like a sigh.
A gusty gasp at the end of a long early run.
Up ahead, the engine room.
The pulsing heart, the empty shell,
the lone dweller in a line of dead machinery.
The brakes squeal, a child dragging its feet.
In the station, the cars couple,
uncouple, the fumbling, tender hitch-and-lock,
the ecstasy of a long union, the final, sated slide
apart, after a heavy haul.
The animal sounds, alive in the night.
Alone, in my yellow-bright room, I look out,
into the dark.
Caitlin Boyd is a lifelong resident of the Coachella Valley who recently graduated from the University of Redlands with a degree in creative writing. She is currently pursuing an MFA through the University of California at Riverside. She is at work on a young-adult fantasy novel.