Old engine 5700 sits solid and quiet
As Christmas snow comes drifting and gliding down, ceaselessly down.
This town is more than two hundred years old
But nobody seems to notice the history standing silent in the air.
5700’s massive boiler sits hollow, humble and empty in the empty yard
Black and green, militarily austere; her working days long dead
And the town bubbles along quietly losing its history,
Maybe we’re all too busy, too tired or too hungry to care.
5700 left exposed and frozen; standing with a gaudy tourist car, bundled-up in a tarp;
Green. Cold. Only the smallest hints of summertime thrills peek out
From under the gawker-car’s shawl – remembering disposable income spent to taste…?
What?….maybe the taste of history receding from memory in a seasonal burial.
5700 hunches under the pristine white power of a cell signal tower
Beaming communications around the globe – through space and time,
5700 glares down the tracks to the BX tower from whose windows
You can’t see the future; only a bloody century’s war-dead memorial
And a vacant lot, still haunted with memories of the Sutherland Press Building
Whence issued biscuits, chocolates, tobacco boxes and paper products;
Now become only another main-street vacancy, idle till some new surge of productivity
Whether in an hour, a year or a decade – meantimes, idleness as labour’s homilies.
Far down the tracks, the old St. Thomas church sits empty among the trees and graves
The voices of the annual carol still, perhaps, resonating a quiet tradition
Though the caroling is done; the cider is done; the sweet tarts and cookies long gone
I seem to hear the bell tolling off the years and celebrating the families.
And I’m staring out this window as Christmas comes floating down
The vibrant colours of history laying at my feet
This yard – once radiated the smoke and power of young industries across a continent –
Still it radiates; now through twisted optic fibres that carry my voice instead.
I want to clamber over the blue fence that blocks my access to 5700 and history
Keep off. The past is off limits.
I want to embrace two hundred years of history that churns forward still
I want to glare down the tracks with old 5700, to live and rejoice
Instead, my voice smokes down the fibre optics
To New York. Vancouver. New Orleans. Chicago. Wherever.
Optical fibres of plastics and glass, a sonorous mimicry of cold steel parallel rails
This spot, this workstation, is still the heart of this town after 200 years
The spirit of the community boils along, though 5700 sits frozen
And the wind that blasts down the long avenue
No longer carries the shriek of the steam-whistles nor billowing coal smoke
The past long yielded to the demands of new electronic frontiers.
That locomotive sits idle in the quietly piling Christmas snow
And the past has never been closer at hand.
In another few hours I’ll walk the streets owned by this town’s ghosts
To home, warm and filled with the promise of a New Year, family and care.