Night Freight, Michigan

Punctual to the midnight—lurch, ruck and chime—
The fast freight breaks from the night and under
The sooted bridges stamps earth and away east.…

Windows rattle in their putty and the house shakes
And across the trembling of the dollar alarm clock on the dresser,
Heart, with the certainty of resolved analogy, discovers
The quivering of secret elm root about rock,
The trembling of river bank and the shuttering lip of water,
And on the hillside the running and sifting down of soil
Through dark and silent mazes of hay stubble.

Earth, indigenous engine, robot to all physic,
Answers to all force and it is good.
Great meter of the footfalls of men and the tug of stars,
Calibrating, in the shifting of an elm’s clutch on sunken boulder,
The shaking of putty in the pane and river from bank, the settling
Of Time across the dial and soil on the hills;
The passage of one trainload of tires, refrigerators, and hobos
From Kalamazoo to the Junction.

From The Collected Poems of John Ciardi (University of Arkansas Press, 1997), edited by Edward M. Cifelli. Copyright © 1997 by the Ciardi Family Publishing Trust. Used with the permission of the publisher.