Crouching behind a Cosco container
we rattled into Havre in the dark,
the searchlights raking your face,
warping your nose, the play of loose
couplers shaking the hollow grainers,
the air tubes hissing in our ears
as we whispered to each other, as you drew
the plans with your finger on my knee.
Or was it me who drew the plans
on your knee? Was it Havre or Spokane?
Cosco or Hanjin? How would you
describe the train’s soft hunting
back and forth on the tracks,
the stutter-stops of all five engines,
the painful groan of a local
lurching forward through the yard?
Could you bring to life the welder
suddenly above us, working
on the girders of a bridge as we passed
underneath? Could you make a stranger
feel the hot sparks cascading—
the way they hovered in the air
like snow, the way they glowed
as we caught them in our oil-
stained hands, the way I brushed them
from your tangled hair. It doesn’t matter.
Every version of this story is equally
useless. Because no matter how far
we try to pull away from each other,
no matter how far we ride these coal-
dusted rails over our own Dakotas,
it’s always the same old story
with us. When will we admit the chunks
of our lives have irrevocably blurred,
the burden of having a brother
coming down on us both like fire.