The Railway Man

A sleeper from the railroad track stands
upright in the yard, pulled from where
for years it lay buried under the house,

spikes driven through the wood where
the rails fit and run between towns and
villages whose names zipped by on signs—

Arouca, Rio Claro, Siparia– depending
if you were headed east, or south. This
beam, long as a man, must have suited

one of my father’s purposes: a step for
the goat stalls, a pillar to help steady
the house when at last it might shift.

Now it stands in the garden, and I’ve
hung one of my mother’s ferns nearby,
leaves sprouting from a handful of blue

fertilizer pellets sprinkled into the husks
that hold the dirt. It grows wild, as if
she’s happy to be near this extension

of him. No matter how the wind blows
or rain pelts, he wouldn’t rattle, or groan
as the train does, leaving the station.