the trestle at pope lick creek
The train was pulling eight cars at seventy tons apiece.
But not a big train, as trains go, though two of the county boys
thought otherwise, their faces opening out like a kiss
against the engine, one hundred and fifty three tons of indisputable
fact and steel. Their bodies, ridged with surprise, were flung
from the bridge, falling in a scatter-shot of wool and blood.
What did they say to each other, those two boys, brave on gum
and dime store liquor, before they made the cross? It was a game.
Nothing much to lose and they could lose almost anything twice.
Did they laugh as their fast tennis shoes, red and white
on the rusty ties, flashed in the dark? Did they think they could fly?
Finally, no where else to go. Two hundred feet above a dry creek bed,
night clattering chance and change in their ears, they kept running,
their still new hearts tossing like dice in their chests.
The 7:10 freight train - 150 tonnes of cold, lip-snacking steel.
A backwater town outside a city, somewhere in the U.S.
Pace Creagan, 17, tomboy, challenges 15 year-old Dalton Chance to race her across a railway bridge.
Because of a trick of sound in the surrounding hills, trains cannot be heard until they are nearly on the trestle. There is just enough time for the kids to race across it once they hear the train approaching, assuming they don't trip or look back.
But there is no margin for error: the trestle has no sides, no handholds, and there is no water in the creek, 100 feet below.
The last boy she took up with her died there.
This time she won't be as lucky.
A poignant coming-of-age story interweaving time past and present, 'The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek' sensitively deals with the beauty of the human spirit, and its refusal to be defeated in the face of a seemingly hopeless world.
NAOMI WALLACE, playwright, poet and activist, is from Prospect, Kentucky. She is highly acclaimed for her ability to combine poetic lyricism and stark imagery in exploring the complex interaction of race, sexuality, social class and politics.
Inayat Ali Sami