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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 23: 28 April 2024
Prose Poem: 438 words
+ Visual Art: Pencil sketch
and watercolor
By Roy J. Beckemeyer

Snow, With Train


The B&O Metropolitan Special on a Snowy Night: Pencil sketch and watercolor by Roy J. Beckemeyer
The B&O Metropolitan Special on a Snowy Night *
Copyrighted © 2024 by Roy J. Beckemeyer. All rights reserved.


It is cold, the kind that seems to know no impediments to its passage, the bedroom window transparent not only to light but to temperature, the glass truly clear, but now, glazed over with your own now visible breath, crystalline becomes translucent. The cold slips in, almost the way daylight will when dawn arrives, light softened and wrung of color by snow’s omnipotence, and you pull your blanket tighter beneath your chin.

It is a quiet cold, no hint of wind, not even its whispering breath, so you know the wind isn’t even out there, neither huddling in the middle of a hedge row, nor in the corner of some abandoned barn, waiting for its moment to appear, but that it has gone off, slinking, perhaps, to another place, three or four counties distant, at least.

Each snowflake, formed as if conjured out of the frigid air by some spell, drifts down, the only impediment to its fall the air’s own substance, sifting through the flake’s hexagon of ice, its branches built of needles, columns, plates and rime so that the flake dances to its own pattern of external edges and intricacies, to a rhythmic music only it can feel, its twigs and angles choreographing its graceful flourishes, its twists and turns as it watches the immensity of this mass of sky filled to the brim with its companions, this company of prima ballerinas and danseurs, each eventually finding a graceful repose, extending welcoming arms to its fellows.

It is this midnight setting, the house long since cooled, each coal in the stove settled, snuggled against its glowing neighbor, not a click or snap, everyone else asleep in their room beneath goose down and quilt squares and too comfortable hibernating to even turn or extend a leg or an arm, and you are upstairs, at a level with the trees, their stark branches free of leaf and color, so when the distant train whispers its presence out on the western fringes of the night, there is no maze of houses between it and your ears to confuse and disperse its pronouncement, no deadening thicket of bush and weed and bristle to pierce its enthusiasm, and you can hear the exquisitely smooth transition as its voice slowly strengthens and shifts, soprano becoming mezzo soprano, then alto. Tenor is its true range, you think, as the level of its crooning peaks, only to feel uncertainty as its baritone shifts to goodbye, its fading final intonation a barely audible bass sigh of departure’s singular lullaby.



Author’s Notes

I have written more than one poem about listening to train whistles through the night. I lived in a small village along the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad’s passage through Illinois, and the B&O’s Metropolitan Special passenger train passed through on its eastbound trek nightly at around 10:00 p.m. Freight trains also came through several times during the night.

The illustration is a quick sketch I drew in a journal, hand-made in India, that contains ancient-looking watercolor paper. The journal was a Christmas gift from my daughter and grandsons and came with their instructions to fill it and then to return it to them next year. The drawing was inspired by images I had found online and my dim remembrances of the B&O livery over the years. It is accompanied in the journal by a hand-lettered draft of this poem. Thanks to Lori Honas and her sons for the inspiring gift.

Roy J. Beckemeyer’s
Issue 23 (April 2024)

poetry collections include The Currency of His Light (Turning Plow Press, 2023) and Mouth Brimming Over (Blue Cedar Press, 2019). Stage Whispers (Meadowlark Books, 2018) won the 2019 Nelson Poetry Book Award. Amanuensis Angel (Spartan Press, 2018) comprises ekphrastic poems inspired by modern artists’ depictions of angels. His first book, Music I Once Could Dance To (Coal City Press, 2014), was a 2015 Kansas Notable Book. With Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, he co-edited Kansas Time+Place: An Anthology of Heartland Poetry (Little Balkans Press, 2017). His poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize (2015, 2020, and 2024) and for Best of the Net (2018), and was selected for The Best Small Fictions 2019.

A retired engineer and scientific journal editor, Beckemeyer is also a nature photographer who, in his spare time, researches the mechanics of insect flight and the Paleozoic insect fauna of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Alabama. He lives in Wichita, Kansas, where he and his wife recently celebrated their 62nd anniversary.

Please visit author’s website for more information about his books, as well as links to selected works, and to interviews and readings (scroll down his About page for the latter link-list).

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