Journal » Trout 15 » I'll Be Home For Christmas [Ed Tato]
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I'll be home for Christmas

Ed Tato

grade level crossing.
the Marat headed east.
the Richelieu headed west.

I'm stuck on a siding
eating rhubarb
with Cendrars and Little Jeanne.

when the train rolls again,
Darlene the car attendant
eyes me ardently;
I flinch,
mindful that I have no ticket,
and stare at the darkness
receding into the shadow of the flat Kansas night.

we head to the smoking car.
the door swooshes open
and the air confronts me
like a lover's breath full of garlic.

on the seats, at the tables,
a mosaic of burns and stains,
of a million past lives:

Pall Mall
L & M
Phillip Morris
Lucky Strike
Chesterfield King
and Export A of course.

strangers speak
with the civility of partygoers
or commuters in their daily routine:

a New York quarry worker
disabled by twenty years of cutting limestone,
seven knee operations,
three disc surgeries,
booze and crank,
pets his turtle-headed cane
and plans to join the Hell's Angels in Mesa;

two old women and a man
dwell on sorghum and Alabama;

a gangster in a platinum sweat suit
wears 20 pounds of gold
on his fingers, neck, teeth.
he checks his phone
and checks his phone
and checks his phone
and checks his phone
and promises the porter tickets for Nelly;

a farmer in homespun
lifts his hat
while speaking German
with a tourist from Bonn;

we smoke through Garden City
Dodge City

a blearyfaced woman
pours gin into a can of Squirt,
opens another button on her blouse,
lights a Winston,
turns to the window;

a Stetsoned tattooed tribal dancer
pulls Buffalo Grass from his vest pocket,
lights it with a match,
waves an eagle feather;

a couple,
looking unsettlingly like my parents,
talk quietly about the Buffalo Bills and snow;

a doctor
football player
starts a nine-hour soliloquy
stand-up routine
that all sounds credible
but incredible;

so the only thing I accept is that he is bipolar.

it's the smoking car
and I couldn't make this up
if it wasn't all true,

as true as Amtrak,
as true as America
as true as Christmas.

we smoke through Desoto
and into Kansas City.

Cendrars and Little Jeanne
decide to leave.
he'd come to see the Mississippi
but now
wants barbecue
and the blues.

he gives me his ticket for Fort Madison.

Little Jeanne kisses my cheek
and gives me a plum.


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© Copyright 2008 Ed Tato & Trout.