Gone Train Blues by Michael Waterson

Gone Train Blues
by Michael Waterson

Listening to Sam McGee’s flying fingers
flat-picking Railroad Blues, 
my phantom tears fall for all
the railroads sidetracked long ago, 
faded names on empty boxcars
shunted onto rusted spurs—
Chesapeake & Ohio, Erie Lackawanna,
Illinois Central cannonballing into legend,
once bustling stations retooled 
to postcard museums, 
where shadows endlessly pass, 
calling all aboard, echoing 
a slide guitar strum picking up steam, 
hauling broken hearts down the line 
to nowhere, each passenger’s last dime, 
dropping through the holes in their pockets,
as they lug suitcases full of enough ache
to make anyone sing the Blues—

So if your lover soaring away
on a silver bird into the blue 
knocks you to your knees,
sends you crawling to the crossroads
to bargain for your soul,
no demon talent will possess you,
fret your fraying heart strings 
or moan your low-down pain
for the masses’ adulation,
for the devil packed his dignity 
and left you, Baby, 
with no tracks to roll on down.

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Michael Waterson is a retired journalist originally from Pittsburgh PA. A longtime resident of Northern California, his career includes stints as a wildland firefighter, San Francisco taxi driver and wine educator. He earned a BA from San Francisco State and an MFA from Mills College. His poems have appeared in numerous online and print journals. His first collection of poetry, “Hell’s Bells,” is slated for publication in September. He is Poet Laureate Emeritus of the Napa Valley.

He may be reached at facebook.com/michaelwaterson and on Twitter: @m_waterson.

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