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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

BOX-CAR LETTERS, by                     Poet's Biography
First Line: Alone on the hill where the sun goes down
Last Line: A poor philosopher be!
Alternate Author Name(s): Wilson, Charlotte
Subject(s): Railroads; Towns; Railways; Trains

ALONE on the hill where the sun goes down
I plunder the earth from my little town;
But the spoils I bring in my fairy sack
Are scattered and spilled on the railroad track. ...
For there, on the siding, the box-cars doze,
And this is the way their dreaming goes:

"Sault Sainte-Marie and Chicopee,
Miami and San Antonio —"
They call like a lover's song to me,
Call, and I want to go!
Santa Fé, Norfolk and Kalamazoo,
Sacramento, Mobile, Peru —
How, do you think, you could tamely bide
In the one small spot where your heart was tied,
When those haughty drudges came creaking through,
Tearing your anchored heart in two,
Each with a name on its stolid side
Two feet tall and ten feet wide,
That rings like a chime for you?

The wanderer's day will have one good hour,
And every roadside one magic flower;
They wither and droop if you stay too long,
The perfume goes like an ended song.
I would come back to the ways I know,
But I would not stay when I want to go!

Wichita, Bangor, and San José,
Ypsilanti and Monterey —
They flutter my peace like the tang of spray!
From high dream-pastures homing down
To the fold of my heart in the little town,
I have to wait at the railroad track
On a trundling train with a snorting stack!
The engine's a genie, a grimy scamp
Who turns a philosopher into a tramp.
Denver, Seattle and Calumet,
Natchez, New Haven and Laramie —
Go on with your lumbering lure, and let
A poor philosopher be!

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