Travelers Welcome

Travelers Welcome

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

St. Francis in Perugia

by Al Ortolani

The Burlington Northern
drums through the intersection
in old town—running

night by night,
hour by hour, hefting
freight, hauling coal.

The engineer trombones
the diesel’s passing, calling
to each whistle post

the rhythm of the throttle,
measure by measure,
crossing by crossing—

a horn in the faraway, a
blizzard in the wheels.
Lying feverish in his cell

miles from town, he
recalls the sparrow
in St. Bede’s hall,

darting from storm to
warmth of the fire,
the long tables filled

with food and drink,
music, dance, then
flying out again

through winter’s
door. What lies before
and what lies after

is darkness, a swooping
bird in the storm―


  1. I really enjoyed this, Al. I liked the way we were invited to re-define the sparrow's world in terms of the vastness suggested by the railway's long trek through America.