Stephen Barile

The Roundhouse

        for Michael McMahon

From Brooklyn Heights by George Copeland Ault

A diesel engine pulled a dozen boxcars
North of where we stood

A boy of five
With my father at the railroad roundhouse

Up from the passenger station
On a cold Saturday morning.

A half-round brick building,
one standard gauge track leading inward
Six tracks fanned out to repair stalls

Lighted by square windows
Blackened with soot from diesel engines
And oil-fired locomotives.

In the yard behind the arched wall
Stacks of rusted parts,
Worn bearings, Klein-Linder axles,

Traveling wheels, bogies,
Carcasses of scavenged engines.

The shop with an industrial smokestack,
Hoists, and heavy machinery,

My father found the man he knew
Who wore stripped and greasy overalls,
A quilted hat with no bill.

The dark of the repair shop
Frightened me,
Made me think of my father’s life
As a boy in the east.

There was a kinship there in the dark
With the other men and tools,
To gird against fear

Of days when the sun didn’t appear,
Bitter and shortened in winter
To a mere span of hours before the night 

When rust settles in my memory,
Full of thrumbling silences, he wheels
Like a locomotive in a roundhouse.


About the writer:
Stephen Barile lives in Fresno, California. He is a long-time member of the Fresno Poet’s Association. Barile’s poems have been published in several print and online publications.

Image: From Brooklyn Heights by George Copeland Ault (1891-1948). Oil on canvas. No size specified. 1927. Public domain.