DISTANCEOne 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 WestFor the first time from a boxcar door.Everything now much bigger than I knew,But in my sudden smallnessCame 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 memorySo that I may just be average;
For then I knew I cared moreFor beauty than for painAnd that there was no return.Watch the signal lights,Way out on the black arcAt the front of the train,Watch the signal lightsChange from yellow to green to red.These pure primaries against the monochromeOf 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 inchesWhen this distance is read in miles.
- Originally published in
Thirst and Consequences,
Doctor True House Press, 2015
ONE DAYCan a Nuts . . 30Beer . . . . . . . 25Schoop . . . . . 35Shot . . . . . . . 65Let me speak of the past:Let me walk into a freight yardInto 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—1980Awaiting 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 peanutsScooped 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 whiskeyBecause my smile is as clean as a shout;Let me just sit there and drink,The stacked cases of beer at the backAlmost reaching the ceiling.Let me wait for the first outbound freightOf a western run. And thenI will stumble out to the yardAnd board a wood-floored empty boxcarAnd sit against my pack in the door as aThunderstorm arrives across the darkness.And as the freight rumbles toward the westI will lean against the side of the doorwayThat cool rainy wind against my faceAnd I will see the red and green neonOf the Dewey Hotel and Bar signDancing in the wet night street.
Passage III by Eric Green, acrylic on un-gessoed masonite, 1978 (42” x 38”).