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Watching the Good Trains Go By

ISSUE:  Winter 2004

Only the stones
know my name.

The back of our family’s
King James

forgot my birthday

but still keeps a blank space
for my death date.

Sleep a strong wind
that once let me drift—

now, airless nights
strand me

in my battered boat.

Fiddle without a bow.
Pawnshop guitar.

My mouth a harp,
heart a harmonica

in coat pockets so thin
the wind

is my accompanist.

Sleep, I sing.
Forget weeping.

Watching the good trains
go by—Washington

& Dominion, Santa Fe —

I think of jumping a boxcar
wherever stays cooler

than this here dirt

as a wound, or the bottom

of the pot boiling
the cure-red

as a child’s backside

whupped till he cries
& then’s switched

silent again.

A torn tom-tom.
Banjo without strings.

Keep me, I sing.
Forgive leaving.

Only the stones
call me home.


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