Brakeman Swinging the Lantern Down
On a back street off West Marginal Way, a collision,
red lights, police and aid car driving off, no siren.
He stands in the rain, but he doesn’t feel cold.
People are talking, but their voices are low.
Backed up commuters, windshield wipers going,
radios tuned to the news, to this very situation.
Imagine the frustration lined up and contained
like cancer cells, the guilt he feels, forgotten days,
as he turns in the weeds on the railroad tracks,
the big engine and the light coming fast.
These junk yards at the edge of cities,
towers of wrecks, cars with blood
still on the driver seat, the windshield—
I am looking for a water pump, a new heart.
The raw road, the gravel pit,
the trailer where I get my insurance
from a salesman heavy with gold chains.
No one around here remembers rain.
I am a drive-through ghost.
Aren’t we all? This isn’t even,
now, a little kumquat garden,
an electric pool you can dive into
and feel the eel-tingle of skin.
Throw the couch and the bones
into the dumpster—there is no
universal law that says you must
divulge your whereabouts.
So we fly on—imagine mist
inventing a new identity to escape
the investigators, so that when
a registered letter arrives say
you don’t know, that it’s a mistake
that person hasn’t lived here for years.
Douglas Cole published six poetry collections and the novel The White Field, winner of the American Fiction Award. His work has been anthologized in Best New Writing (Hopewell Publications), Bully Anthology (Kentucky Stories Press) and Coming Off The Line (Main Street Rag Publishing). He is a regular contributor to Mythaxis, providing essays and interviews with notable writers, artists and musicians such as Daniel Wallace (Big Fish), Darcy Steinke (Suicide Blond, Flash Count Diary) and Tim Reynolds (T3 and The Dave Matthews Band). He also writes a monthly piece called “Trading Fours” for Jerry Jazz Musician and was recently named the editor for “American Poetry” in Read Carpet, an international, multi-lingual journal from Columbia. In addition to the American Fiction Award, he was awarded the Leslie Hunt Memorial prize in poetry, the Editors’ Choice Award for fiction by RiverSedge, and has been nominated three time for a Pushcart and seven times for Best of the Net. He lives and teaches in Seattle, Washington. His website is https://douglastcole.com/.