Flowers Along the Railway: A NC Triptych, by Helen Losse

Helen Losse

Near Andrews Geyser—
an NS coal train winds its way
down through the loops
where passage looks impossible.
Growth of rhododendron
accent over-hanging rocks.
Wild flowers fill the valleys.
Falling water echoes like the train’s whistle,
turning back on itself
going south on the S-Line.

At the Salisbury Wye,
railfans sit in pick-up trucks.
Chunks of coal fall to the wayside
onto the red, red clay
near Buck Steam Station,
that everyone calls “Duke.”
A pig train waits for a crew change
in the shade of the aging Yadkin River bridge,
where a lonely passionflower
grows in crushed-stone ballast.

At Ft. Bragg, a patch of yellow thistle
pokes through rails
where the Army practices war.
South toward Wilmington on CSX tracks
salt from the Atlantic
flavors moist air,
and a short line
links the Port Authority with DOT.
Boxcars and tankers wait for cargo.
Brown sea grass rustles in wind.

Author’s Comment: I love the contrast between the natural world and the world of steel rails and wooden ties. I wanted to present unique snapshots of the three regions of our state in a balanced triptych, so that each could stand alone, but I also wanted the three to be connected (as they are,) and I wanted to create a sense of motion (unevenness of the rail path, both in vertical and horizontal directions). I attempted this by indenting some of the lines. When I consider the number of variables, I’m not surprised as to how may revisions it took to get this poem “right.” I use the word “right,” as most poets do, to show that’s where I left it at my last revision.

Bio: Helen Losse is a Winston-Salem poet, the author of two full length books, Seriously Dangerous and Better With Friends and two chapbooks, Gathering the Broken Pieces and Paper Snowflakes. Helen’s poems have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and twice for a Best of the Net award, one of which was a finalist. She is the Poetry Editor for online literary magazine The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature.

6 thoughts on “Flowers Along the Railway: A NC Triptych, by Helen Losse

  1. I like how the imagery is specific but still leaves a lot of room for the reader to fill in the blanks (especially in the last stanza). I strive to do that in my writing, but it’s one of the hardest things to do. Great job, Helen.

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