Brigham Young hoped passing trains
would enliven trade, while Congress
hoped trade would pass polygamy
from existence. Stanford didn’t think the Chinese
could pass muster, then used them to pass up
the Irish, after which he wanted Chinese out,
passed over by law to keep them from passing
for white. The work passed
to Japanese, who were put in camps, then on
to Mexicans, Navajo, Italians, Poles, Greeks, Swedes,
each man passed into and out of
some approximation of American. “We cannot fail
to be benefitted by it,” wrote Brigham Young.
A bond paid down per mile
of track, Congress had to pass an act
to make the building stop. It’s in the past,
but first these barons didn’t plan
to meet: they planned to win. Each side
built right on past the other.

From West: A Translation (Copper Canyon Press, 2023) by Paisley Rekdal. Copyright © 2023 by Paisley Rekdal. Used with the permission of the publisher.