One way is purposeful and firm, but another way is restless and
that is the way of learning.
The Word on a spray-painted train is nothing new
Nevertheless, we sometimes forget. Repetition helps
Some primal song or chant and then the well-worn
word becomes decorative and meaningless, another
kind of import
Piling up extravagantly the first few repetitions force
effects and simply please. Cars rock ties as a mother
might lull her child to sleep rocking a wooden cradle.
But you can’t stay here forever
So, you bang the steering wheel, with your
beaming forehead, until you feel love opening lines.
At cross signs, tank cars carry crude and Love moves
Forever new. The word becomes emboldened as you
wait, as one car after another riffles and breaks. The
spectacle of the caesura, when you see the flash of
cinderblocks and battered boats and the white paint
peeling from their ports. And now the cross arm rises
up on this ungraded parish road.
You see your savior’s death and blood
Trainsick, as though examining existence or language
about it. The crucifix, these signs. Do I criticize them
or preserve them, the train with the right of way, even
when the traffic light is green, cinderblocks, lost
polaroid’s, the reprehension of broken things?
There had been no gate
Here, a year ago, only a beaten crossbuck sign, until
two teenage lovers in a pickup had tried to beat a
It was something out of a movie, the witness had said
when the tanker cracked and jotted, and the power
lines popped with fire.
He’d seen the liquid coming out in flames, at first, as
though it were waking from a deep, unnatural sleep
And then, carouseling toward him, and he hadn’t
known where to run.
Now, all the trees in shrouds stand by their crosses
And now, you see the stars through shotgun houses.
And the rusted knuckle coupler pales upon the final
railroad car—which is an ending and a sending.
At first, you tell yourself to let it go. Then turn aside
O it racks you with its vast extent, but following its
awful passing, the white-rayed flower heads, with
yellow discs, float liminally in the spent.
The Lord has moved
the curtain on us. Belief and unbelief flutter and fall
leaves go back and forth unpredictably different things
set off these swells: a psalm or a holiday and faith
never fully leaves. It lingers—Christ, your love is hard
You bring good days and storms, the way you seem to
go and return like the sun that journeys away from one
place only to return to the same blest place the next
day after day, the birds awaken and dash from eaves
They seem to believe that this has never happened
and fly around, impetuously piping music.
***Bruce Alford is a columnist, reviewer and creative writer. He has published fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry in journals such as the African American Review, Comstock Review, Imagination & Place Press and Louisiana Literature. His first collection,Terminal Switching was published in 2007 (Elk River Review Press). He received a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Alabama and was an assistant professor of creative writing at the University of South Alabama from 2007-2011. He currently lives in Hammond, Louisiana. Before working in academia, he was an inner-city missionary and journalist. He currently lives in Hammond, Louisiana.***