Ryan Clark

A Railroad Town

for Headrick, Oklahoma, a town whose placement on the
railroad spelled the end of the nearby town of Navajoe,
which the railroad had bypassed by only a few miles

Headrick is a fixed table set in 1902 for those chased by hunger for the railroad.
Deep oceans of wheat in Navajoe brush what horizon they forfeited,

a raw road combing through weeds into a fenced cemetery, where a train
wouldn’t come. We dream a long ways away and walk over to it. We are working.

We are one hundred men welcoming ties. We lay rails, and we nail the rails down,
until a long, slow weight tells us we are formidable—even then, ending.

There is a vanished view of room that our stories collect and people in faces
covered against the wind, the bent palm over brow shoving dirt out of eyes

establishing an idea to stay for. Here is a train, a wall of people begging for home
at a sign saying Headrick station. The desperation sapped Navajoe of its feet,

its arms searing in June sun, and in this a vein, a nerve, withdrawn—
to move or not to move. In adding what a road is, we said here is growth,

itching, inching, eating, on schedule, in need, enough. The freight turned off the track,
gathered site, tethered it to shore, meaning it became a bordered faction of

we are located causes of movement. We junction, let the word
haul us over centrally, the need to return a foam on gums, all of the tongue

a song that the house sways forever. Might the present location shield us,
take us in with enough track to end here.


Ryan Clark is obsessed with puns and writes much of his work through a unique method of homophonic translation. His poetry has most recently appeared in Glint, the museum of americana, riverSedge, Flock, Menacing Hedge, and Homonym and his first book, How I Pitched the First Curve, is forthcoming from Lit Fest Press. He is a winner of the 2018 San Antonio Writers Guild contest and his work has been nominated for Best of the Net. He currently teaches creative writing at Waldorf University in Iowa.