The railroad tracks run up the spine of my childhood home. I stand on them, watch the ribbons of iron and creosote doused timbers twist off before and after me. Nothing lives on the tracks that we traveled like teenage legionnaires seeking conquest and adventure, except my memories. I lived on the left side of the tracks. They lived on the right. I lived amongst the mill workers, volunteer firemen, working mothers, and cooks. They lived among the lawyers, the doctors, the church ministers. On the left side, there was a swamp, trails, homes that still had rings to tie a horse to, no fences around yards, handshakes between neighbors, old pickups and beat sedans, a comfort in old places with old souls. On the right, They had the shopping complex, farmer’s markets, labyrinthine McMansions with fences as tall as a man, BMW’s, constant concern over the tax assessed value of their temporary home, an instinct to pave everything over, complaints of how the town was losing its quaint charm.
The tracks still run up the middle of town. I never see the local kids walking on them. The swamp is drained, the views on the left and right look the same, adventure is at the shopping complexes on both sides of the tracks.
I have moved on to a new town. I have become one of the people on the right.
Necklace of Thorns
When I was a boy, I climbed a tree in the front yard circled by thorny bushes. I could not convince myself to come back down. Gravity + thorns = unacceptable prospect. My father refused to help. “You got up there, you can get back down.” I don’t remember climbing back down.
The Shrieking Beast
My son got a chest x-ray when he was a year old. They bound him up in an acrylic tube and he screamed like a beast led to slaughter. I held his hand for comfort despite the ray gun being pointed at my unguarded groin. He has no siblings.
I remember that old green Ford sedan; it was a viking ship, space shuttle, fighter jet, pioneer wagon, and tomb for the Pharaoh.
I remember not needing to know what it took for others to give me my happiness.
Pretty Pretty Please?
I remember thinking the best artists I knew would love to teach me if I asked just so.
The Sounds of Silence
Silence is hearing the freeway roaring with wild vehicles traveling up and down stream. Silence is the click of the clock in the bathroom that never tells the right time. Silence is the soft snore of my son in the next room. Silence is the creaking of my teeth when I try and fall asleep at night. Silence is the humming sound that fills my head when I see you smiling.
Feeding the Black Hole
Down in the black hole I keep in the back of my head, I can find the things that I never wanted to see again but needed to know where they were in case I changed my mind. Today I tried to push a bad thought into the black hole and saw a good one that had been pulled in by accident. I guess having a hiding place for thoughts isn’t always a good idea.
You Can Jump
A boy jumped off this trestle when my older sister was in high school—that feels like ancient history—the boy’s girlfriend dumped him while they sat up here drinking beers and smoking cigarettes. I look at my friend, he loves telling the story any chance he gets. I look at the beer and cigarette in my hand. We are sitting on a little platform that sticks out from the main timbers of the trestle. I always feel like I am perching at the edge of death when I sit up here, feet dangling, pitching empty bottles into the muddy water below, watching the highway traffic criss crossing the landscape in the distance. My friend says we will have to jump if a train comes along. I think I will let him jump, I will beg the train for mercy.
The Walk to the Cabin in my Head
Last night I dreamt a trail up the sky. It was paved in cobblestones made from the faces of loved ones and cherished friends. They, the cobbled faces, were silent, still, serene, set in a position of quiet repose. My sleeping angels. I stepped lightly, climbed the path, and when I reached the top, I saw a familiar, beat, cracked, broken red door; the door that looked like the broken smile of the frightening Indian man in Chemult. The door that does none of its duties well. The door that was the image of beauty to someone, once.