Gateless Crossing

It's easy to lose your life there, but most people
only almost do. The flashing lights aren't enough with that bend in the road,
and most look up just in time toward the train, yelp, hit the gas.
One night a man and woman almost lost their lives together in such a car -
a harmless ride - then they fell in love and the man left his wife and children.
The wife is my friend Sandy - later she went on a date with a new man
and they had to cross. The train was coming, and he stopped.

Everything was just normal, she said.

Sandy says she can remember ancestral lives as if she was there -
barns burned, the stench of cattle flesh darkened the air, then a spark
caught the house. The house was rebuilt a year later, she tells me,
then a son was stillborn, then a son left for war and the barn burned again.

She says she wasn't surprised when that man
said he was married and didn't mean to be there, the reflection
of their headlights flashing by on the sides of boxcars.

Thought she'd like to get home for a whiskey.

So much trouble, Sandy says. Some just falls behind you -
and we laugh about what might happen to it then, fending for itself,
hopefully growing up to jam the fax machines of happy people
at the office. But some you must leave behind you -
a receiver hanging by its cord in a phone booth by an empty bridge.

To think he almost died there. No more to say on the matter.

Sometimes, you think you hear the phone ring late in the night.
When I last picked it up, the dial tone screamed like a rail.

Megan Gillespie

~Appeared in Cimarron Review