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The Cargo

Dusk. Now the bloodstar appears.

In the dimness, a wooden hut, scarlet vines
that engulf it, seclusion surrounded
by barren land, a shadowed vastness
that draws down to the river.

The life that is inside stirs and rises
from an iron cot, a chaff mattress.
His hand reaches toward
the ceiling for a bead chain
that dangles beside the bare bulb.

Light now, and a mirror. He stands,
is reflected—a shock of gray hair,
a pale, furrowed brow,
but unseen, the dying eyesight,
the cooling reaches of the blood
sleeved within his veins.

Now a table, a tablet, and he sits.
In the distance, across the river,
stack trains rumble as penned words
slowly cross the coffee stains
on his paper.

I would haunt the tunnels of light
wherein I have stood, the tunnels
that move out ahead of the engines.
Deathful are the carloads.
Billionate are the lumens
that blind one to all
but the railed course.

I have aged. I have laid eighty years
behind me. More than I, than this
widening life, this thinning existence,
are the black, unmapped hollows
of the heart, are those clouds that mimic
no other form.

Sound into spirit, spirit,
the lightest cargo, unfolding, moving
on the water, is all I now seek,
is all I can receive.


Rob Whitbeck lives with his wife and two sons, and works on drilling rigs in western Wyoming. He is the author of two full-length collections, Oregon Sojourn and The Taproot Confessions.