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Locomotive Shuffle

My poem “Locomotive Shuffle” was published in Poets Unlimited on Sept. 12, 2016. Here’s a link:

It published without spaces between the stanzas, for some reason. Here’s the poem, with blank lines, as it was intended.

Locomotive Shuffle

A poem

chuffing and chugging, steel on steel

locomotive roar rips open the shroud

of night, bright lights splinter it open

a telltale symbol, this trinity on tracks


cyclist plants himself at the crossroads

of X, earbuds squeezed in, iPod set on

shuffle mode, listens to the soundtrack

of an otherwise meaningless existence


what if it’s not true life flashes before

your eyes? what if, he thinks, the ears

have the epiphany, of sounds swirling

inside your head? the flashes of music


track one is tull: engine shakes, shuffles

locomotive breathes, shining its unholy

lights on quivering brow, no way even

God can slow the damn machine down


those tunes that make up a soundtrack

are from an earlier era, his father’s, like

train cars bumping he’s a rebel , no duty

to dad or God but the tunes are way cool


the boy on the bike wonders: Is he one of

the people ready for the train’s a-coming?

is this the Kingdom’s Throne hiding place

as the diesels hum and the whistles warn?


the rails heave under the bulk of the train

like those final breaths in his father’s chest

in that hospital room years ago, no words

sacred or profane would cross his dying lips


screaming close, brakes shrieking steel on steel

he remembers the day his tire rolled over a bird

on this trail. No way to slow down. Did the finch

see it coming? Conscience makes cowards of us


don mclean’s as good as any if you’re going to

shuffle off this mortal coil, one-hit wonder but

oh what a hit! miss america pie — wasn’t it an

ode to buddy holly, a life snuffed out too soon?


can the music

save the boy’s mortal soul?

is this the day

that he dies

along

with the

music?


the trinity of

bright lights

blinds him

and he

wants

to sing out

about

the three men

he admires most


the

father

son

and that third guy


are they on

this last train,

or somewhere out there on the coast?


the boy on the bike did not see Satan laughing

with delight as he snuffed out his sacrificial rite

of madness, rolling off the cold, steel rails while

his music still pulsed alive, bright on this night


Bye, bye