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A weekly poem, read by the author.
June 25 2002 12:00 PM


Listen to Jim Powell read this poem. When the hammer blow of the hydraulic ram slammed down on its head to drive it square in the square hole through the tie plate anchoring rail to crosstie

a minute imperfection on one edge
of this steel spike snagged
on the lip of the aperture—
obstinate—and the ram's force

wrenched it awry. It skewed and twisted, jammed
the gears of the machine,
seized up the works. Unwedged, extracted,
tempered steel clawed
and dented, bent improbably,


it was cast aside on the crushed rock
ballast bed where I found it
and brought it home, cold in the hand.
Now it lies
on this page for a paperweight.