Near Clio, South Carolina
It's a clear fall day, 1960
and I'm eight and I've never
been so far from home.
I'm outside my uncle's house
that badly needs paint
in the hot dry country
that's desolate and remote.
And in his front yard,
if you can call it a yard
since it's all dirty white sand
and tall scattered weeds
There's an old railroad track
crossing the yard too close
to the porch and you can stand
on it and gaze for miles each way.
And then I see a distant train
coming toward me with its light
dim in the distance but I know
it's really bright and it scares me
And I want to cross the track
if I have time to get back again
on the side by the house before
the dark awesome force arrives.
It's an urge to run across that
no-boy's land if I dare, but why
should I care about it at all? And
as the train approaches closer
I feel the pressure inside me
to cross or not to cross.
Will I do it or try it, as the
opportunity rushes on by?
Can I catch it—the chance, not
the train—or will I wait a second
too long and dash just to be dashed
and end my world in that strange place?
And now I know I can cross tracks,
but it’s not always good, and not
ever healthy to wait too long to make
the choice if you might want to return.