Poems, The Subvocal Zoo

Special Episode: Kai Carlson-Wee reads “Westbound Train”

Westbound Train

The yard in Minot is covered in floodwater.
The trees move haunted and slow in the night-wind.
Next to the highway a Cadillac burns while
a man looks over the flames, now and then
dowsing the sideboard with water. I lean back,
watching the satellites bury their light
in the faint slate of stars. The engine hums
quietly under my face. The black snake rides
on a ribbon of pure moon, creaking its way
through the pass. I wake up again at the edge
of Montana–silos and rusted-out granaries loom.
Horses asleep on the cusp of a minor hill,
quietly bending their heads to the grass.
I could be one of them, lit by the billboard signs,
watching the cars disappear down the dark road
forever. My train rocks quietly over the soy fields,
bearing the empty container cars west.


Kai Carlson-Wee has rollerbladed professionally, surfed north of the Arctic Circle, and traveled across the country by freight train. His work has appeared in Narrative, Best New Poets, TriQuarterly, 32 Poems, and The Missouri Review, which selected a group of his poems for the 2013 Jeffrey E. Smith Editor’s Prize. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow, he lives in San Francisco, and is a Jones Lecturer in poetry at Stanford University.

Subscribe to the podcast: iTunes | Stitcher | RSS

Audio and video by Kai Carlson-Wee. Check out our recent conversation with Kai at Poetry Northwest.

Full episodes of The Subvocal Zoo podcast will return later this year. The Subvocal Zoo is made possible in part by listener support. If you enjoy what we’re doing here, we hope you’ll become a supporting listener by donating to our Patreon page!

We would love to know what you think. Please leave a review or comment in iTunes.