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River Stones and Copper Pennies


On this trip even our campsite is near the rail.

We build our fire in the pit beside the river and

watch as our children skip stones.

The river is quick and cold but they’re safe enough.

The banks are wide and level, pebbled with miles of

stones rubbed flat by river water, perfect for skipping

so smooth and flat they love the feel of them

in their hand, on their cheeks,

heavy in their pockets.


The sound of river water wakes me

takes me twice to the outhouse,

my jacket slipped on against the mountain air

my hands shoved in my pockets fingers playing with

river stones and lint covered coins


I feel it first,

feel it in the distance,

feel it coming,

feel the rhythm in my belly

the train


If I hurry I can still make it.

Scrabble up the hillock moonlight at my back,

through wolf willow and scrub until I

come to the track, put the first penny down,

then the second, third, fourth

Oh cripes, I’m giggling like a girl, like a ten year old girl

and I mark each spot with a river stone


Sliding down I crouch in a copse,

fingers crossed in empty pockets, waiting

Six red engines arrive one after the other pulling a mile of train,

a mile of food and fuel (yellow hopper cars still my favorite)

rumbling past while I hide in the bushes



When the train has gone, round a bend and into the mountain

lost to the night, I jump onto the track.

The rails are warm and one penny is waiting for me

flattened to an oval, smooth as a river stone

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