Robert Charles Howard
Sam's Watch (1915) - Poem by Robert Charles Howard
When the arc of the hands of his watch
Reached the top of the hour
Sam pushed the throttle forward.
Engine 138 thundered
Out of Blossburg station
Like an iron dragon
Breathing smoke and steam -
Whistle shrilling over the Tioga valley.
Powered by coal
The train carried coal
To the waiting city of Elmira
Where Sam would press his mother's hand -
Perhaps for the final time.
The wheels churning iron on iron
Across Pennsylvania farmlands,
Turned like other wheels before
Moving settlers west
To break its ready earth -
Wheels beneath his grandfather's oxcart
Turning toward Lycoming's verdant hills.
New wheels now carried America
To urban landscapes
Drawing us like electro-magnets
To streetlamps - factories - dry good stores -
New crops for a modern age.
Elmira’s silhouette expanded on the horizon.
And Sam pulled the train in on time -
Brakes screeching through billowing steam.
His wife, Jenny and his sister's Sam
Came in a horseless carriage
With Zoe, Marie and Edward,
Children now grown at their sides.
They all gathered by Hannah's bed
Now approaching her final hours
Soft voices and fragile smiles
Cradled the truth beyond all telling:
Time, ever advancing
Like the hands of a fine old watch,
Holds us all in its circling sway
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