Wednesday, May 2, 2012


"And when she got back, she was nobody's wife" --Leonard Cohen, Famous Blue Raincoat

Cunning mad-bird,
You will always find someone
To gaze with you through the broken window of your life.
You will stretch out your pitiful injured wing in that practiced way,
And they will leave their fingertips
Severed against your skin
Removing the shards you flew into
With intention.

That year,
Our last,
I had to get away
From the hospital smell and the bad blood.
Saving you is a fool's errand,
And I was numb with it.

If Jesus were alive today,
He would take Amtrak.
When I was young, I traveled St. Louis, Jackson, Galveston, OKC, Tulsa, Falstaff, L.A., Portland, Seattle and Vancouver,
Then across Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota and back home.
Winds circle,
And can circle again;
Sometimes between the spinning Earth and the changing sky,
There is even a point of balance to be found.

Listening to "Desolation Row" and falling south from Chicago down to Springfield,
I saw the capitol building lit gold in the night
As I shared a meal in the dining car
With a nice man who demanded nothing of me.
In Arkansas, an ice storm had ruined the trees,
And in Texarkana, I felt as weary as I have ever been;
But somehow, and 23 hours behind schedule, we rolled into San Antonio,
Where I had lived those years before I knew you.

In the stillness of pre-dawn,
I shared a cab with a soldier bound for Fort Sam.
Paying my share outside the Menger, I stood alone with my bag and savored the Texas city I love.

When I came back to Michigan,
You didn't bother to meet my train;
But I had been home,
I had been sane,
And I knew to a certainty as I walked my way to the house we would soon sell,
That you would not destroy me
And that I had been redeemed.


for Kerry's challenge at Real Toads. She asked for poems about the road.

Bottom photo: the Illinois capitol (capital? I can never remember) in Springfield, at night. I remember so vividly how it looked from the train.

The Menger Hotel is my favorite hotel, a historic landmark in downtown San Antonio. it is reputed to be haunted.

I debated what music to put with this poem, and thought about Emmylou's "Tulsa Queen", but in the end decided to go with this, because it reminds me of the early part of the trip, through Chicago, and also the double entendre of LSD, which suits the trip I took.



hedgewitch said...

This is a solid road poem--so many times that's where we go to find our real selves, even though so much of the road is just flashing by us, still we see all the thousands of possibilities in those little blinks of places. I had an Amtrak moment myself once--and in many ways, the train will always be part of my personal journey--so this resonates. I especially like the way the wording just flows seamlessly on, 'falling south from Chicago, ' the way the winds 'circle and can circle again' and the last stanza is an affirmation of the survivor that condenses years of experience in a few words. Fine poem, Shay.

Kerry O'Connor said...

What a rite of passage, rebirth through forcing the body down the passage of fast travel. This reads like personal redemption, Shay. Just amazing hardcore poetry.

Helen said...

You chose the perfect music to accompany this unbelievably good poem! I've seen that capitol at night .. I feel as though I've ridden that train with you.

Buddah Moskowitz said...

I really liked this poem. It has a confident cadence to it. The details of going places and coming back to the start, the authentic self were rewarding. I love you(r writing), Thanks, el Mosk

Anonymous said...

the roads we travel down...

so glad you took the one to redemption!

Sioux said...

This poem has the feel, the flavor of a random autobiography...where tidbits of a life are just slipped in, randomly.

This is a gorgeous, moving piece, Shay.

Don't never call your stuff stupid--you hear me? ;)

Anonymous said...

The citing of individual cities and places gives it the feel of the picaresque, a sort of condensed The Adventures of Augie March vibe. It is very much a condensed novel, and that is a good thing indeed.

De said...

This is powerful, Fireblossom. That first stanza, especially, and OH, this:
"And they will leave their fingertips
Severed against your skin
Removing the shards you flew into
With intention."

Wonderful. You weave a great story. I'm getting hooked.


Karen said...

Going home can often restore our balance, and renew strength, so that we may carry on, and do what needs to be done.

Shawna said...

"Removing the shards you flew into
With intention" ... Nice. Why do we do that?!

"Winds circle,
And can circle again" ... Oh, thank goodness.

"Sometimes between the spinning Earth and the changing sky,
There is even a point of balance to be found" ... I sure hope so.

"With a nice man who demanded nothing of me" ... Were you high? I didn't know they existed. ;)

"an ice storm had ruined the trees" ... a beautiful way to die

I grew up in San Antonio, as if you care. Blah blah blah.

"But I had been home,
I had been sane,
And I knew to a certainty ...
That you would not destroy me" ... Great ending. Sometimes just knowing that someone won't destroy you is enough.

Shawna said...

I totally misread the ending, Miss Sassy. Now I see that the two of you are splitting up. So much is in the tone of voice. I'm an idiot for not reading the opening quote. :P

And now I also see your LSD note; so I suppose you were high when you dined with the man who expected nothing.

Fireblossom said...

Dear Shawna,

Actually I was sober the whole trip. But there was a feeling of altered circumstance, and a sea change going on within me.

I'm a good Catholic girl! Kinda.

HermanTurnip said...

I dunno. I saw Jesus the other day. He was in the dairy section of the grocery store, and was mad pissed about the price of milk. Then he started complaining (as if I cared) about the layover he had in Pittsburgh, and that they lost his luggage. Claimed he never wanted to ride with Amtrak again.

Susie Clevenger said...

Sometimes we don't find our freedom until we travel its road and know what it feels like...a poignant journey in this poem...

Lydia said...

Oh, yup, I love this one, Shay! Beginning with the quote by Cohen sent it straight to my heart, of course. Some things we do in life are absolutely necessary, and this trip was surely one of those for you. I loved the spaciness of it and how the trip ultimately served as a foundation for your life from then on.
The song is really special. I'd never heard it before, not ever, and didn't even know who sang it so I clicked to watch it on youtube and there in the info section below the video it said "As seen on Shay's Word Garden." How about that?!

Lydia said...

p.s. Forgot to give you my personal trick for remembering capitol or capital. It was important for me to get this right when I worked inside the capitol building in Salem-- Oregon's capital city.....
The word for the building is spelled with an o. I just envision the capitol dome and mentally toss a ring over it! O, I hope that helps. :)
Save the "a" word for the capital city itself, the capital idea, the adjective meaning excellent.

Daryl Edelstein said...

would he ride in the quiet car or opt for business class? .. either way there's free wifi.. just sayin'

nene said...

Fireblossom, outside the fact that I love your writing and this journey is now one of my favorites because I've also taken a similar trip. What I love most about this piece is Shawnas play by play interjections and your dialogue with her. The part that hurts, though, is the disparaging 'nice men's' intents. Sad, sad, sad,.
Pssst, what are you two lovely ladies doing later? ?-p

Just kidding!!!!!!

Sherry Blue Sky said...

This was a trip, all right, physically and inwardly, and you tell it so powerfully. I am stunned by the first stanza, and felt redeemed, myself, at the end, along with the heroine. I made a similar journey, in '76.

shawnacy said...

journey narrative with trains and a spiraling redemption, wherein we come back to the familiar but everything is different because we are different...
your sense of place in this is remarkable and rich.

also, Famous Blue Raincoat is a road poem all its own.
there's a personal moment i won't forget that involves that song and the crossing of the GWB at daybreak.

Anonymous said...

Great write. There's nothing like going home to find ourselves.

Lolamouse said...

Great poem-not just about the road but about the journey itself. Glad you came home to find yourself. I hadn't heard the song before either. Really enjoyed it!

Kay L. Davies said...

There is something wonderful about a train journey. I went across Canada by train, by myself, a few years ago, and it was just what I needed.
I love this part (I've taken some out)
"And I knew to a certainty
That you would not destroy me"
Freedom from the fear of destruction, whether self-inflicted or by another's hand — there's nothing quite like it.

Hannah Stephenson said...

I loved how you savored "sanity" at the alone provokes discomfort and then comfort.

Hannah said...

I really enjoyed and stopped to ponder your beginning, the metaphor about the bird. I love the idea of it, so much wisdom in this:

"And they will leave their fingertips
Severed against your skin
Removing the shards you flew into
With intention."

Margaret said...

You are after my heart! Chicago (lived near there growing up), San Antonio (first years of marriage) and Michigan.. Petoskey... I miss that place too! And the Menger Hotel (never did spent the night (not yet!) but walked by it plenty of times) as you know is by the Alamo... no wonder it is haunted... Loved this poem, not only for the landmarks, but the digging deep... and surviving.

Mama Zen said...

This is one of those masterpieces of understated beauty that you do so well. That first stanza is brilliant.

Shawna said...

LOL at Nene. Depends when later is. :)

And Shay, isn't "nice Catholic" an oxymoron? My best friend in Jr. High was Catholic. I went to church with her Saturday night sometimes. And I also hung out with her after church. So don't try to fool me. (I'm [mostly] joking, of course.)

Mary said...

Ah, this poem makes me want to read Jack Kerouac again. I always thought road trips romantic and adventurous. I'd loved to have taken that trip you took!

Peggy said...

The first stanza had me hooked and I stayed with it through the whole story. So glad you were able to come home and find strength to move on. Quite a road.