Everyone here had the bad
luck of the Irish, except the Greek,
who won the sports book
every week. For many,
he was a minor god. In crowded
bars, they stood near, hoped to catch
anything rubbing off.
Churches tended to huge—
Evangelicals and Pentecostals
the exception with their clapboard
sides and tarred roofs. Matters
of sin—whatever its brand—
led to lots of wails and squirms.
A Lutheran parking lot covered
the torn down Swanson place in black
defiance. Eight boys and girls once lived
there, blue eyed, curly blond hair; the boys
true, the girls alluring; girls with whom
the neighborhood boys sought eternal
damnation—anytime, anywhere, any terms.
Most of us failed, the real entry
to fortune nowhere in sight.
My father’s sisters grew fat
with babies, bad food; their men
with liquor, bad genetics. Paychecks
the only thing for miles on a diet.
It’s hard to remember what to love here.
The giant elms down the street
gone from rot, our baseball lot
traded for a higher use—a Motel 6.
My father’s best friend lived across
the street, spent his evenings at the ball
park watching Legion boys shag
flies and trade lies. No major
leaguers in that bunch. One day
he grabbed a train to northwest storm,
shot himself dead on prairie fallow.
His instructions to his mother:
Now that I’m dead dispose
of the husk in any manner you want.
A willow once straddled the green
slope between the church lot
and my gully, gopher holes
surrounded it. I sent a thousand
love poems down those holes;
they came back fire songs. As a boy,
I would lie alone in my bed,
a great hollow outside the room. On dark
nights, I could hear the failed cry
of a locomotive replay the last train
running to Chicago. I dreamt its diesel
engine pulled an empty rail car,
me sitting inside, my legs dangling over
the streaming cross ties—town trailing
behind draped in black and coming storm.
Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 16, Issue 4.