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DISTANCE One memory haunts more than all others. It lies in the mind like full moonlight: Cool, silver, green, Like a loam of longed for love. Through all these years it holds me, Keeps me with its relentless purity. “That which shall not be reft from thee, That which can not be reft from thee.” At a young age I saw the American West For the first time from a boxcar door. Everything now much bigger than I knew, But in my sudden smallness Came a strength— A willingness without fear. And so there see me in the October night, And so there see me in harsh chill wind, The desert by moonlight (Spokane to Pasco), Moon so bright to eclipse all stars, Sky an immense ringing iced silence, The flatcar boards under worn shoes, Patched corduroys flagging thin legs, The drumming of metal wheels and rail, The occasional cry of wheels and rail, The freight train flying like a lost angel, A mad phantom fleeing youth's expectation. But I am there, I am aboard, Standing, huddled; silent, screaming. God release me from this memory So that I may just be average;
For then I knew I cared more For beauty than for pain And that there was no return. Watch the signal lights, Way out on the black arc At the front of the train, Watch the signal lights Change from yellow to green to red. These pure primaries against the monochrome Of the desert night under that moon. Ask me not to be a painter now, Forbid what should be forbidden, For it is unfair to feel so deeply. That a life will be spent gaining inches When this distance is read in miles.

- Originally published in

Thirst and Consequences,

Doctor True House Press, 2015

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ONE DAY Can a Nuts . . 30 Beer . . . . . . . 25 Schoop . . . . . 35 Shot . . . . . . . 65 Let me speak of the past: Let me walk into a freight yard Into the afternoon summer sun, Across the sandy heat, the stench of tar, Of creosote, a tired diesel shunting, The thistle and the gravel; Middle of the country—1980 Awaiting a 10 PM call westbound. Let me walk through the open door, Under the neon of the Dewey Hotel and Bar (Last true trackside workingman's bar), Let me hoist a schoop of cold Point, Let the barman pour out a can of peanuts Scooped from the wooden barrel, Let me scatter the shells on the floor,
Let me feel the breeze through the door, Let someone buy me a shot of whiskey Because my smile is as clean as a shout; Let me just sit there and drink, The stacked cases of beer at the back Almost reaching the ceiling. Let me wait for the first outbound freight Of a western run. And then I will stumble out to the yard And board a wood-floored empty boxcar And sit against my pack in the door as a Thunderstorm arrives across the darkness. And as the freight rumbles toward the west I will lean against the side of the doorway That cool rainy wind against my face And I will see the red and green neon Of the Dewey Hotel and Bar sign Dancing in the wet night street.
Passage III by Eric Green, acrylic on un-gessoed masonite, 1978 (42” x 38”).