• Russell J.

Guest Post: A Prayer of Sounds and Silence

Tonight I sat alone in church

listening for His voice

A tranquility interrupted by the wailing horn

of a northbound coal train winding its way down

the Big Sandy Valley


Its soulful wail entered my subconscious

The same sound that’s carried in the mind of every coalfield kid

like a pack of Nabs

A sound that’s part of the cacophony of mountain life

like crickets

like birds chirping and thunder


It’s a sound familiar to anyone who’s lived here the past hundred years

It’s what connects my daughter to me

and to her grandparents and great-grandparents,

most of whom she’s never met

But this sound is part of what weaves us together into

one long continuous line,

just like the coal gons of that old train


I thought how my grandchildren will not recognize

that familiar sound,

like I never heard the sound of a boat whistle

so familiar to my grandparents. The shrill whistles

of the boats up and down the Big Sandy

had faded long before I was born, yet somehow

I still know them


That train is just like life,

it rumbles down the track and passes by a place and then

all you have left are the tracks and the memory

of the sounds it made


Those sounds are like my faith passed on to me

by people in that line,

some of whom I’ve never met


Soon the train passed on

headed for parts unknown, its sounds fading into the summer evening

like a passing rain storm

I was left with silence, waiting for God to speak

when it occurred to me

maybe He just did.


Guest post by Russell J.

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