Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Fresno Flyer



image by buttkus.


Fresno Flyer

“I know my mother named me after a railroad man,
but it’s too late to change it now.”--Hoagy Carmichael.


Riding the rails was
a national mode of real
transportation once.

When I was nine, we lived in Georgetown,
close to the Rainier brewery, & a huge train yard.

I used to walk to school, cutting across the yard
to save several blocks of travel. One sunny morning

as I stepped across a complicated maze of tracks, a
switchman down the line swung his great lever, activating

the tracks beneath me to switch. This happened quickly & it caught
my right foot between the shifting rails, making a horrendous clunk.
My small foot was uninjured, but my shoe was hopelessly stuck. I
put my Roy Rogers metal lunchbox down on the cross-ties, & tugged
& tugged to no avail. 

Then I saw & heard a clanking line of boxcars backing
          toward me. Panicked, I managed to pull my foot out, 
                    abandoning my shoe. The grunting train backed past me,
                              as I stood a few tracks away. The engineer in the
                    locomotive saw me, & made an angry gesture, waving his    
           arm, pointing out of the yard. His actual words were lost beneath
    the sound of great metal bogie wheels squeaking on shiny steel tracks,
& the chug-chug-chug of the diesel engine. I retrieved what was left of my
                     shoe, & sort of wore it at school that day. I got a whipping
                     when I got home--they had been a new pair of shoes, but
                     the leather belt welts didn’t keep me out of vast fascinating
                     train yard.

When I was a kid
I used to think that working
for the Railroad would be a great job        but by the time I was a teenager
                           I decided I would be a movie star/writer/teacher; & I was
                           in a limited sort of way. Still I studied trains, loved them
                           & photographed them.


When you look at it,
train terminology becomes a poem in itself--
Bogies,
Baker valve gears,
Backhead,
Blastpipe,
Buchlie drive,

Firebox, Couplers, Lempor injectors,
Crossheads, Quill drive, Dead Man’s switch,
Haman speed indicator, jackshaft, Kuhn slides,
Johnson Bar & Hancock air whistles.

Boxcar blues still thrump
like a slide guitar midst my
midnight insomnia.



Glenn Buttkus

Posted over at dVerse Poets Pub Poetics

Would you like to hear me read this Train Poem?

20 comments:

X said...

I def have a love affair with the train yard, having grown up near the tracks and falling asleep to their sound. It had to be pretty terrifying as a kid to get your shoe stuck on the track, but then you fell in love with it all the deeper. I have a railman's pocket watch from way back in the day as one of my treasures.

Victoria said...

This is a heck of a story, Glenn. "When I was a girl..." we used to go to the train station in Pasadena, just to watch and take in all the sensory input--the scents, the warmth of the steam, the clack, clack, whistle of the train. They are such atmospheric things, aren't they. But do stay off the tracks.

Claudia said...

oy i'm glad you managed to escape in time... dangerous... though i totally understand your fascination for the rails and trains

Marina Sofia said...

I might have guessed you've got a bit of a trainspotter in you...
They are so quintessentially American and Wild West, too, it has to be said.
I am amazed at the richness of your train-related vocabulary too!

willow sloan said...

Oh, Glenn. You are so right! There IS poetry in the terminology. I just adore words.

The ending is my favorite:

"Firebox, Couplers, Lempor injectors,
Crossheads, Quill drive, Dead Man’s switch,
Haman speed indicator, jackshaft, Kuhn slides,
Johnson Bar & Hancock air whistles.

Boxcar blues still thrump
like a slide guitar midst my
midnight insomnia."

Hayes Spencer said...

Excellent tercet at the end of an amazing story. I can see you now as a kid, the first of the trainspotters forging new territory. The vocabulary associated with trains is fascinating, as is any vocabulary associated with any profession/calling. I myself have loved trains and grew up on tales from my great grandfather told to him by his grandfather, a train conductor. Yeah, he'd say, trains are for sissies nowadays....I have a feeling you still cut through that train yard.

Sanaa Rizvi said...

I loved the reference you made to the time of childhood.. as a child we are so fascinated by certain occupations as we imagine ourselves carrying them out :D
An enjoyable read :D

Grace said...

That is a scary moment with your new shoe stuck on the tracks ~ Yes, I like the poetry word list for trains Glenn ~

And l also love the haiku ending with those boxcar blues ~

Polly said...

Wonderful word 'thrump'

charliezero1 said...

Love this whole poem.
Especially, the reference you've made in your childhood days.
I can see it all as a movie being made by you.

Beautifully written my friend. :)

Mary said...

Oh, how frightening, Glenn!
Your tale left my heart thumping.

C.C. said...

"I got a whipping
when I got home--they had been a new pair of shoes, but
the leather belt welts didn’t keep me out of vast fascinating
train yard."
I love this part of the story....for the reminder of that feeling....what it's like to have a passion for something that is so profound that even a whipping can't keep you from it! Now THAT is a true fascination!!

Kate Mia said...

A sound of train such a sad refrain.. echoing past
an illusion of not present.. prevalent
on a Winters day.. in grey shade
way.. the air is empty
and all is left
is a song
of yesterday..
cold and old
THAT sound of Loco
haunts me years then
without a soul.. and heArt
ironically in sadly enough.. But Now..
i never notice that Sound in west town way..
funny how the 'little' things of life sound
so loud.. when there is nothing
left
but
howling wind
of whistling
trains gone
by..:)

thotpurge said...

Boxcar blues.. love it!!

Sumana Roy said...

whew...a lucky escape and was scary.......sure your family were clueless about that misadventure...your fascination with trains find wonderful expression with the train-related terms..

bwfiction said...

Just an outstanding story Glenn - I really enjoyed your feel for the railroad and its terminology.

Myrna R. said...

Love the story and the train poem in your poem. I don't believe in spanking kids, but honestly if one of my grandkids did something that dangerous I think I might. Still, I like how the story ends, and so much enjoyed your writing.

ninotaziz said...

Love the sound your recollection makes. I can feel your heart pumping.

kaykuala said...

Very fascinating write Glenn and educational too. Never knew all those train lingo. Extremely lucky to have pulled off your foot in time! Whew!

http://imagery77.blogspot.com/2015/07/people-movers-in-many-places.html

Hank

vivinfrance said...

You have material for many poems in this one! The adventure, the vocabulary, the movement - all enchanting.