Inevitable, that the heavy,
once a green train locomotive,
should turn into a blue two-wheeler,
a plane, a jet plane, faster than
a speeding bullet,
fast past the brick walls of the house.
Come see the world.
Inevitable, that he should
disappear into an old age
that takes hold on
the coastal plain, Raleigh,
where adult life began,
twentieth birthday plus four days,
too young to celebrate
the nuptials with a glass of wine.
The wheels on the bus go
‘round, ‘round, ‘round.
‘Round, ‘round, ‘round.
The wheels on the bus leave
Buffalo, go to Pittsburgh,
Baltimore, D.C., Richmond,
where water fountains are
for Colored or for Whites Only;
finally, to this alien place,
fifty years hence, where
old mental snapshots like
antique-stall postcards, yellowed,
fuzzy, out of focus, rise from
a box to say You were here once,
not alone. You walked down
the street holding hands.
He is confused, not drunk,
though he would like to be,
maybe stay so,
for another fifty years.
To be on this ridge looking West,
to linger, moments too long,
on the photos on the walls.
Cayuga Creek, in perspective,
should flow from the front of
the image to the distance,
not quite centered, but instead,
with frame on end, sits stagnant
like a pool, says Maybe you should
have drowned, falling out of
Bobby Goetzman’s canoe.
Coal burning in the stove of
the pub in Whitstable,
coal burning in the stove of
the grade-watchman’s hut
on the main line where it crossed
Buffalo Avenue, coal burning in
fire boxes of the engines pulling
freights & fast passenger trains
elsewhere, inevitably, elsewhere,
Toronto, New York. Chugga, chugga,
chugga, chugga, pistons, drivers,
driving wheels, steam, cinders,
smoke following the wind that blows
past, as it does again, at the station
in Park Ridge, waiting, again, for
the 7:36, hoping for a seat.
The look, the stare, the one that
nervous adulthood refers to now
as the look of death. He sees them
large, towering, glowering with
that look. He is always looking up.
His stomach aches, his cheeks burn
when the look comes his way.
He is sorry to have repeated it.
The hunger is not real, but whines
to be fed a constant flow of food,
first peanuts, then cheese, ham,
tomatoes, followed by apples.
Nothing does the job.
There is a sinkhole in his gut,
swallowing nutrients, garbage,
nails & refrigerator parts.
Prepare a new recipe, complex,
so many ingredients, simmering
this stew of late life, complicated:
the included, the left out, what
meals came before, the attempted,
what did, did not succeed. How many
dinners tossed for too much salt,
too much pepper, tossed.
He thought about it, the end;
realized it was a choice & tucked
the lesson into his eleven-year-old
pocket, rode his bike, wind in his face.
He thinks about it now: the end;
slaps it away, frequently, comes to
understand that one day
he will open his arms.
Inevitable, that the grey sky will turn
bright, the sun will set, planets &
stars will rotate, revolve, that the sun
will rise to warm the seedling,
warm a wrinkled face turned
skyward in a gratitude of sorts.
Inevitable, that he will live tethered
to a search for his thumb.
About the Author
Eugene Stevenson, son of immigrants, father of expatriates, lives in the mountains of western North Carolina. He is an Eisenhower Fellow, Pushcart Prize nominee, and author of the chapbook The Population of Dreams (Finishing Line Press 2022). His poems have appeared in The Hudson Review, In Parentheses, San Pedro River Review, Third Wednesday, Tipton Poetry Journal, and Washington Square Review, among others. Find him online at eugenestevenson.com and on Twitter @Stevenson_Gino.