Where the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha Railroad Depot Once Stood in Chetek, Wisconsin

Where the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha
Railroad Depot Once Stood in Chetek, Wisconsin

Years later, you return to town under a low-slung
gunmetal sky, park alongside the lumberyard,
walk to the tracks, boots crunching over ballast.
Toward the river you hear the far-off whistle-shriek.
Nothing moves but a sluggish breeze bringing a hint
of fresh oats, isolation and rain. Where Knapp Street
crosses the tracks, the ground is weedy, unused.
The quarry stone foundation has been removed. No trace
of the depot remains, replaced by a gray wooden post
with a white aluminum sign. A styrofoam cup moves
elliptically at your feet. Beneath your boots, even anthills
are abandoned. Thunder arrives over swamps west of town
and the light begins to change. The grain elevator sits empty
along the passing track, the canning factory is boarded up.
Rusting in the weeds, an empty boxcar is home to a tomcat
squatting in its open doorway. Behind you, a child plays
in his backyard who has never waved goodbye from the platform
to a brother leaving for points unknown. He watches you,
hands in pockets, announcing your arrival to no one.

Paul Scot August

Published in Dunes Review, Summer 2010, Volume 15 Issue 1

Nominated for a 2011 Pushcart Prize

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6 Responses to “Where the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha Railroad Depot Once Stood in Chetek, Wisconsin”

  1. Good emotional arc throughout, and great ending.

  2. As far as I’m concerned, if you only ever wrote evocative poems about abandoned railroad infrastructure that came down, in the end, to a single human figure in the landscape, I’d be satisfied. Really, really solid.

  3. oooh, a chapbook of poems sounds promising. this poem hits me in that way that only certain poignant poems can–hard to language exactly what it is or why–but it is lovely and evocative and tinged with melancholy and some feeling of resigned acceptance of change, of time having moved on without “you” and of moving along with time nonetheless.

    was this an imagined scene or pictured from memory?

    • paulscotaugust Says:

      Thanks, Amylia. This particular poem is a combination of remembered details and an imagined scene. I’ve stood in this exact spot, and I’ve felt this way, but not at the same time.

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