The High Line Drifter’s Lament

April is National Poetry Month, so I want to post a couple of pieces of poetry that I have written. These poems have all appeared elsewhere. This poem, The High Line Drifter’s Lament, is one that I wrote several years ago. The High Line is a railroad freight line that runs between Seattle, Washington, and Minneapolis, Minnesota, in the United States. It passes just south of the U.S., Canadian border, and crosses the states of Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota.

Back during the 1980s and 1990s, the High Line was terrorized by a gang called the “Freight Train Riders Association”. This gang was responsible for lots of violence along this stretch of track, particularly in the state of Montana. People who illegally rode freight trains were fearful.

The High Line Drifter’s Lament

I was riding on the High Line, on a trip across the plains,

Passing south of Enumclaw, soaked from late night rains,

Riding fifteen hundred miles, across the northern tier,

Choking hard on cheap red wine, cursing hard the fear,

I got a second hand Hi-Standard; I keep it in my pack,

I sleep with one eye open, because I have to make it back,

An old timer told me in Spokane, while we were playing cards,

How thugs had come to terrorize the rails and the yards,

They found a man in Kalispell, a month ago today,

He didn’t have a home or name, but now he has a grave,

They’re rolling drunks, and killing men, and raising lots of hell,

Killing them that ain’t like them, and anyone who’ll tell,

They don’t give any warning, and they don’t make any sound,

They’ll shoot you dead and disappear before the bull’s next round,

So I take a chance, I check my piece, keep my back against the wall,

In thirty two more hours I’ll be with you in St. Paul,

By morning light this train will pass, from the mountains to the farms,

And I’ll be that much closer to the shelter of your arms.

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