artwork by Mary Frances
The Night Queen
“There are no heroes.. . in life, the monsters win.”
--George R.R. Martin.
I live out of a back pack.
I am one of the last of the rail riders.
I hop the boxcars
on slow corners and steep grades.
They call me Boxcar Ben.
I swear, there are more shanty towns
and tent villages today than there ever
was in the Depression.
On warm nights, I love to climb atop
the cars, spread my red Navaho blanket
and lie on my back watching
the star show, one of the last free
In my travels, I am humbled and saddened
by the huge numbers of homeless folks
I encounter. Some can be dangerous,
but most of them are just down on their luck.
My heart aches for the shivering children
with the upside down grins & hungry eyes.
I’ve been a proud boxcar bandit for 30 years.
I’ve had to fight to defend myself.
I’ve done jail time, gained weight on prison slop.
I was pretty sure that I knew everything
about hobo-hopping--but in 2010, in late July,
I was rolling steel through Louisiana.
I stopped at a homeless camp for a hot meal.
Several people warned me about the next
stretch of track. They claimed the area was
haunted by a monster they called the
Night Queen of the Railway Wastelands.
Cajuns prattle on a lot about their home-grown
monsters, so I didn’t pay much attention.
The next night I was riding the Southwest
Union Flyer, and was slicing through endless
swamp. I could smell the wet moss, bat shit,
skunk cabbage and gators. It was around
midnight when the train slowed and stopped;
what the hell; turns out a ghostly herd
of Angus cattle were camped out on the tracks.
I sat in the open doorway with my legs dangling,
riven with alacrity, watching for railroad bulls
with clubs and hand cuffs. It was a humid,
dripping night, and there was a full moon.
Suddenly I heard branches popping
and breaking, and the brush shook. The air was
laced with the stench of rotted meat. I was
pole-axed with fear. A seven foot something
stepped out of the shadows, and stood staring
It wore an alligator head for a hat, and its fierce
face was werewolf-white, with red coals for eyes,
with long yellow canine teeth. It held a staff in
each hand that had human skulls atop them. The
tall lean body was covered with dark fur--on its
chest were two large breasts--definitely a female.
It opened its ferocious mouth and roared like
a cave bear.
I bolted to the back of the car, and scrambled up
the inside ladder. I crawled out on top the car and
peered over the edge. The Night Queen was gone,
but the slaughterhouse perfume still hung heavy
in the hot air. I sure as hell never set foot in cursed
Posted over at dVerse Poets Pub