Monday, May 29, 2006


We're the last gasp of Saturday night
at three a.m. on a Sunday morning
three of us mounting the approach
with the half-sixpack
of Uncle Ben's beer
and stumbling out onto
the dark-smelling creosote ties
between the dull shining guides
of the cool steel rails,
hoping we're right to think
that the Canadian Pacific Railway
will run no trains until dawn.

There's no late-summer moon
and the night's thin starshine
barely outlines the brighter things
at the edges of our centre-blurred eyes
but not the black iron on which we stand.

We're no longer boys
nor quite yet men,
are still protected
for a few days more
by the power of three
and are still stupid enough
to walk a half-mile out
onto the high level bridge
long past midnight
the only muffled sounds
that we can hear
on these dim tracks
our own footsteps,
random groaning whispers
from the cooling metal,
and one distant cricket.

We pick our shuffling way,
speak in muted voices
about what we will do
when we've separated off
to different cities,
imagine confident lives
we know nothing about, yet,
not yet understanding
that our best guesses
are just guesses
and that we, decades on,
will have lived far differently
than the dreams that seem so real
here in the still-warm dark.

Somewhere near
the indeterminate middle
we crack the beers open
on a raised rivet head
clink the bottles together
loudly in the stillness
and, half-conscious
of the half-serious
absurdity of our ritual
toast ends and beginnings.

We drink deep to the finish
then each of us in turn
drops his empty over the side,
listens infinite short seconds
for the faint crash of the glass
three hundred feet down,
and stand suspended a moment
high in the middle of the night
unable to make out the sky
or the distant earth
or either end of this trestle,
back the way we've come from,
out toward where we're going,
feeling only roughly where we are
dizzy with the knowing
of the height
and the night
and the long
unseen length
of this span.

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