Listening to the Katy Train
The back yard was where my mother
hung laundry out to dry between two crosses,
her homesickness and our shabby house;
where my father nursed his weariness alone
and hid the empties under the trash.
Between our lot and the Katy tracks,
tangled, scabby apple trees went feral.
That was where I found near-sightedness,
squinting through an air rifle’s notched iron,
the blurred distance closing in.
I was eleven the year Stalin died
in his own cramped quarters in the Kremlin.
Fixing supper, I heard the news on radio.
That night, beyond the ruined orchard,
the Katy train blared and rumbled out
to open country, shaking earth.
John Palen has poems forthcoming in Delmarva Review and Spoon River Poetry Review. A three-time Pushcart nominee, he recently received his first Best of the Net nomination from Sheila-Na-Gig. Mayapple Press brought out his most recent book, Distant Music, in 2017. He lives on the Illinois Grand Prairie.