By John Grey

My grandfather says the trestle bridge just buckled
when the locomotive crossed it.
That train broke apart, and cars
swerved, careened, toppled into the river.
People screamed. They grabbed onto
what they could as suitcases, strangers,
crashed against their flailing bodies.
One man's heart gave out before his
carriage smashed the surface. Many drowned.
The fireman went down in a swirl of flaming water.

My grandfather knows every detail of the flood
of 1953 and repeats them endlessly. He can
point out the high marks on every building
in town. He can name everybody who didn't survive.
And yes, he remembers clearly
the night that Mary English shot her husband
with his hunting rifle. He can point out where
the Bialosky boy drowned. And there's
no need for floral cross embedded in the highway
bank. He remembers who crashed there, the names,
even the make of car. There's times, I really
do believe, he lives for the dead.

And he was in the war of course, more buddies
killed in action than there are names in our
telephone directory. You'd think he would
forget some but he never does.
He figures people spend a lot more time dead
than they ever do living.
And those caught up in their own lives
don't bother with an old man like him.
It's only people no longer here who can spare the time.

Photo by Austin Smart