Last Train Out Of Montmorenci Falls By W.K Kortas

Last Train Out Of Montmorenci Falls

It left the depot relatively unencumbered;
Passenger service having been discontinued the winter before,
So the engine and the few sad cars pulled out
Containing no more than a few sacks of mail and an antique air compressor
Headed down to Dubois for either repair or euthanasia.
In truth, you couldn’t blame the PRR folks;
The branch line hadn’t been profitable for decades, if ever at all,
The business of business being business and all that.
That said, the perfect reasonableness of events which transpired
Did not make them any more palatable.
Mind you, it was not just mere nostalgia
Which the engine’s farewell trip served up for those concerned:
Oh, there was a full complement of that,
For there was no telling how many folks
Had waited, ostensibly patiently, at trackside
For a new suit or bridal gown from Kaufman’s or Horne’s
Shipped all the way from Pittsburgh,
Or had waited, in tears one way or the other,
For a loved one coming home from one of the wars,
Stepping onto the platform all smiles, medals all but on fire in the sunlight,
Or carried off, flag-draped and cherry-lidded,
(The band playing in the tempo the particular case called for)
And the oldest of the old-timers still talked about the fateful day
When Tiger Joe Margiotti, Elk County born and bred,
Stood on the platform, the entire town there,
Cheering as one as they would never cheer again,
Waving farewell as he headed to Pittsburgh
To hear from Boss Lawrence the words we all knew would be said:
That he was too Italian, too Catholic, too rural
To receive benediction for the pursuit of statewide office,
And it wasn’t that you still couldn’t flag down the Trailways bus
Which ambled into town twice a day except Sundays,
Stopping at the jerry-built plywood shelter in front of the defunct Rexall
(Ostensibly a temporary measure, but there three years now.)
No, it was something more than that,
Intangible and yet portentous and awful,
For we had always suspected (and, deep down,
Known it to be as factual and true as our own names)
That though we had thrown rice and confetti at our successes
And wept or swore under our breaths at our failures
No differently than folks in Erie or Johnstown or Pittsburgh
Or, if we allowed ourselves the odd flight of fancy,
New York, London, or Beijing,
Our shortfall of tall buildings and traffic lights
Underscored the notion that our laughter, our cries,
Our dids and didn’ts were lesser things, of no real importance,
And the train’s final departure, its chugging labored and funereal,
Was the final sentence in an obituary written over an extended period of time
(The death itself a lingering, discomfiting affair,
Drawn out and piecemeal, like our fathers and uncles
Losing a finger here, a pinkie there
In the roller or pulp dryer back before the mills closed down),
Leaving us nothing but a pair of rails
Narrowing together like some middle schooler’s perspective drawing
Into a point in some faraway and unseen nothingness.

By W.K Kortas


W.k. kortas is an itinerant civil servant living in Pennsylvania’s Endless Mountains.  He lives and works by the axiom “Mediocre means better than some.”

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