Ode 1: Union Pacific

(Revised 10.6.16)


In the alleyway

cool breezes sleeping chickens

under ancient trees.


I linger. It’s noon.

They say smoke still hangs over

the derailed oil train


in the Gorge but no

crude stains the Columbia.

Fortune smiled they say.


No wind-whipped flames fill

the space carved from the Cascades

by Ice-Age meltdowns.


Sighs in the tree tops

say signs. To be good this life

needs many virtues.


Author: Tom D'Evelyn

Tom D'Evelyn is a private editor and writing tutor in Cranston RI and, thanks to the web, across the US and in the UK. He can be reached at tom.develyn@comcast.net. D'Evelyn has a PhD in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley. Before retiring he held positions at The Christian Science Monitor, Harvard University Press, Boston University and Brown University. He ran a literary agency for ten years, publishing books by Leonard Nathan and Arthur Quinn, among others. Before moving to Portland OR he was managing editor at Single Island Press, Portsmouth NH. He blogs at http://tdevelyn.com and other sites.

2 thoughts on “Ode 1: Union Pacific”

  1. This is deeply satisfying, Tom. The words open slowly and as the lines continue there is a sustained air of time being in suspense and of the speaker’s mind drifting and coming to rest on the news of a dramatic incident elsewhere. It’s bad news but also good news; it’s ambiguous. And then the poem closes with a reflection left appropriately open. And it reads so naturally, so unforcedly. Three cheers from over this side of the Atlantic!


    1. Thanks so much John. The virtues you mention are those you practice, so it means a lot. I was about to add this stanza: “No wind-whipped flames fill/ the space carved from the Cascades/ by Ice-Age meltdowns”– that could go before the final stanza and strengthen the argument about good luck.

      Liked by 1 person

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