Railroad Depot in Bald Knob, Arkansas, 1943
by David W. Landrum
in memory of Earl Wade Beckwith
At the sleepy station
where lizards grey as dust scurried,
fleet-footed, over berms of baking stone
and tracks gleamed in relentless sun,
the car pulled up, the Russians disembarked—
grey uniforms, red stars, red epaulettes
and smiles and handshakes;
later you would learn they were
in training at Fort Smith and would
be shipped back to contested steppes
to use the skills (whatever the skills were)
they had learned here.
One gave you his red star.
Neither you nor he could speak
except by smiles, except by attitudes
that indicated friendship.
They climbed up when the whistle blew
and went into the distance
wavy with heated air,
fragrant with tar-smell from ties
soft-warmed in sun,
the caboose fading off
far past the spot imagination’s line
drew to a point, beyond experience.
David W. Landrum is originally from Arkansas but lives and teaches in Michigan. He says this poem is a part of his family lore. “My cousin met Russian soldiers who had come to train in Fort Smith, Arkansas, during World War II and had the artificat mentioned in the poem – an encounter he related that has always intrigued me,” he says. David’s poetry has appeared in such journals as Gloom Cupboard, Small Brushes, The Formalist, Clapboard House, and many others. He also edits the online poetry journal Lucid Rhythms.