Watching a Train Go By

“rituals whose painted symbols are
smoke swirling”

By Glover Davis

Dreaming some huge, incomprehensible words
a man who’d be an artist made them writhe
on boxcars flashing by us as we wait.
One blood tipped consonant cuts like a scythe,

others are crushing loops the vowels print
on metal roughened by heat and flecked oils.
He’d trace smoke flowing back from the engine,
wielding his spray cans, making fat, gray coils.

His public art, as flawed as it might be,
perhaps drew energy from a desire
for rituals whose painted symbols are
smoke swirling from a brief, oracular fire.

Glover Davis is Professor Emeritus of Creative Writing at San Diego State University, where he taught after studying with Philip Levine at Fresno State and graduating from the Iowa Writers Workshop. His books of poetry are Bandaging Bread, August Fires, Legend, Separate Lives, Spring Drive and My Cap of Darkness. Davis is currently finishing Academy of Dreams: New and Selected Poems. Davis’ work has appeared in many journals, including The Southern Review, Poetry, Yale Review, Crazy Horse, Prairie Schooner and The New England Review.