John Dorroh

Watching Trains Roll Past Our Second-story Window at the Kingsley Inn on a Frigid Wednesday Night in Fort Madison, Iowa

There is steam pushing its way out of hot innards,
carbon steel and pig iron, wheels that could crush
a stag in two like a plump brat. Hissing and sissing,
metal rubbing on ice-cold tracks, the snow a backdrop
for black engine cacophony.

My brother’s lover makes time with them all,
memorizes their codes and points of origins: Santa Fe,
BNSF, Union Pacific– destinations, origins, cargo content,
each history lodged like yellowed photo paper in the back
of his throat.

Dead gray weeds at track’s pulse gyrate like cold hula girls,
bowing down before their kings, clutching frozen dirt
with what’s left of frostbit roots. I want to see it all
from their perspective, inches from the crushing machines,
the wheels that roll back into time when bison ruled the plains,
when souls of men didn’t go up in puffs of smoke
at the very thought of profit. Lying down is no longer an option.

We take turns sitting in Mark Twain’s chair in the alcove
that bears his name. We gulp shots of bourbon and curse
what we’ve become: slaves to oil with our F-150s and GMCs,
their big silver grills in my rear-view mirror. “Faster! Get out
of my way, you little bitch!”

I want the snow to slow us down, stop at the depot for a coffee break,
use the commode with the pull-down chain. Eat at the tiny blue-and-
white cake box diner & sit at a table next to the frosty window
& make smiley faces while Irene delivers pancakes as big as steering
wheels & hand-patted sausages with homemade biscuits and sausage gravy
so hot you have to wait three minutes to eat it.

© John Dorroh

John Dorroh believes that it’s just as important to read poetry as it is to write it. He purchases books by new voices too often and needs new shelves a few times a year. Three of his poems were nominated for Best of the Net and hundreds of others have appeared in fine journals such as Feral, River Heron, Loch Raven Review, and Pinyon. He had two chapbooks published in 2022.

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