Something in the sound set in me a longing
to grow up, listening late at night to the low
departing whistle of the last express
as it escaped to the world walled out from me
by the mountains.
Later when I learned that my coal valley city
lay above a catacomb of tunnels and shafts
I thought too much of those abandoned
tracks. I felt in my first-teen bones
the rotting of those timbers in the stream of damp
air down there and dreamt one night
of something coming, of a demon living beneath
the city streets.
The dream turned black and I awoke to first menses
but I did not know what it was but thought a cursed
thing had lain near me and left behind his rusty smirch
a red that partly dried to coal upon my bed and gown.
Then from month to month I lived in the gush
and cramp of dread that one day walking
in a clean pink dress a huge anthracite hand
might grope up suddenly through a curb grating
or drain and grab me by the leg and drag me down
to the mine in his need for gore.
I am grown now and have left that place
and childhood terrors but sometimes late
before the first bleeding of the sky
when the sound of a train’s far off whistle
starts that old flow of fear, the child in me still
waits for that damned smeared hand.
Sarah Brown Weitzman [email@example.com] has had work in numerous journals including THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW, AMERICAN WRITING, POTOMAC REVIEW, AMERICA, MID-AMERICAN REVIEW, THE BELLINGHAM REVIEW. Her second chapbook, THE FORBIDDEN (2003, Pudding House) was followed by NEVER FAR FROM FLESH, a full-length volume of poems (Pure Heart/Main Street Rag, 2005). In 1984 Weitzman received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. She was a finalist in the Academy of American Poets’ Walt Whitman Award twice, and more recently was a finalist for The Foley Prize in 2003. A former New York academic, Weitzman is retired and lives in Florida.