One way is purposeful and firm, but another way is restless and

that is the way of learning.


Opening Lines

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

and whisper—

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.



Circular Structure

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.


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***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.***


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