Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

Sound Barriers

Sound Barriers

By Karen Swenson

Lying at night in my North Dakota room
listening to the train three blocks away
thunder its corridor of rails to the Pacific

I hear a soft rubbing as my blind aunt
pulls her body along the hall
holds to the wall in her darkness
moving in the insomniac ritual of age
from bed to bathroom and back again.

She trails round and round her body's cage
while that cyclops eye of light
thrusts its line across the prairie.

The two sounds meld
both signals of passage to land's end—
her gentle scraping at the edge of a journey
and the cadence of diesel chords calling back
on the prairie wind the course to the Pacific.

Prairie Schooner, Vol. 50, No. 4 (Winter 1976/77), pp. 335


Karen Swenson

Karen Swenson (born 1936) is an American poet and journalist. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Beloit Poetry Journal, Paris Review, American Poetry Review, the Saturday Review, and the New Yorker.

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