On the Express


Josh Pearce

On the Express


There you go flying down

a one-way track

in an iron corset

all done up in the back

with steel-rail stitching

that pinches you into an arrow

dynamic figurehead.


Coal sparks in your eyes.

Your hair streaming behind you like smoke

and at night the people listen

to your long, low, mourning cry.


During the day the boys whistle

as you flash past,

rocking them on their heels,

mussing their hair with puffs of air,

and you whistle back


and then you are gone,

pushed along by the weight

of everything behind

to the end of the line.


You’re on a tight schedule to get there

but even if you make it on time,

you’ll just turn around

and go back to where you started.


Spinning wheels,

hiss of frustration,

but what if

you jump track


and thunder off into the desert

where no one can find you,

or if you plow into one of those sunflower fields

that you’re always passing,

but never see

into a new, two-dimensional venture?


Your hair smells of smoke,

your brain must be on fire.

Rivets pop off like buttons,

boiler comes apart at the seams,

leaving behind your baggage cars

and parasitic passengers,

picking up steam.


Pieces of your overwrought casement

litter the path behind you

like discarded petticoats and blouse,

chest to the wind,

and a pennywhistle screech

in the rush of air


on the rebel express to nowhere


and even more daring

when you look up into a third

dimension all of light

and startled birds.


And with a steam scream,

up you leap! hair

billowed around you like

a rocket’s plume


on the dreamer express

to everywhere.


Josh Pearce is a fiction writer and poet from the San Francisco Bay Area. He currently works as an editorial assistant at Locus magazine. You can find him on Twitter: @fictionaljosh or at fictionaljosh.com.



Editor’s Note: Image collage of Steam Railway Furka-bergstrecke, Gletsch, Furka Pass

and from Maxpixel: Superhero, Girl, Speed, Runner, Running, Lights, Space.

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