A Fire Was In My Head

Trainyard in Morning
6 March 2009, 9:41 am
Filed under: New Poetry

It is possible to start at the end of the poem, then discover a beginning, then pencil in the in-between.  I wrote this piece in felt-tip and ballpoint around the edges of the front and back covers of CityPaper, the one with the cover story “Olney the Lonely.”

Trainyard in Morning

A hundred dummy cans adorning
the trainyard
in the morning
after a storm hit it hard.

The traders need to trade
in ballast
they have weighed.
It lost a layer of dust

last night and sits
clean in the mud. Any crow
who wants to gets
to come to the cargo

and drink
from puddles and make the rain
look more like ink.
We wait to load the train,

one crow and I,
the one who came
yesterday to take a drink and fly
in the storm. It drenched him lame

enough to keep
him close
to the puddles. Did he sleep
there as the puddles rose?

It rained all
night. He and I wait
for a train to haul
a hundred leaden boxes. It’s late.

To pass
the time I loop a memory
two hours old: just as
I arrived to see


a waste awash
in sunlight, the crow cooed
like one who, gaining ash,
forgets the wood.


An Exercise, A Slump
1 March 2009, 10:03 pm
Filed under: Draft

A few of my other poems have been forming as slowly as metamorphic rocks, so I took a break and some advice form Richard Hugo, whose book The Triggering Town is of extraordinary use to me as a poetry teacher.  (I have no idea if he is a good poet, but he writes plainly and strongly about helping others become good poets.)  I stopped thinking about layers of meanings.  I stopped thinking about rhyme.  I stopped thinking about stories I know I want to tell.  Instead, I took a factoid from my Dad’s life that he mentioned to me on the phone earlier today and ran with it.  (They called him “Cadillac” Stephens in high school on account of he got rides from a family friend who only drove Cadillacs.)  Here’s what happened:


Witness the Cadillacs
slide in like ice cream,
hubcaps angel’s skin bright.
The girls fall forever
into the creme-de-menthe
bucket seats.  The whole slick scene buzzes
over to the lakes kicking
up a Sahara cloud of gravel
that sticks in the cracks of our eyes
and makes our socks sag.
The kid on the mound
sweats so much he can’t throw
a strike.  I’m on deck thanking God
when ball four sails, cause there isn’t one of us
could hit a planet
when the Sahara cloud comes down.

Not a terrible slump busting activity. Just let the words come.