The Burnt Out Prodigals of the Train Station
Under the gaping arches they come,
in fingerless gloves.
Fables of the deconstruction, dust bites
in the blood of my eyes.
Someone calls them
broken bicycles, shelved garbage, leakage.
The newspapers call them
beat angels, refuse muck,
pickers, stealers. One is an enchanter,
a holy sepulcher of greasy splurge.
Teeth the color of used up endpaper,
eyes like fuel,
skin burnt as diesel.
One is an empty chance.
A one time poet. A drunk,
a street minister.
One hawks up a saxophone,
father thoughtful squawking ‘Trane,
squawking all the fat in the fire,
all the coal in the blaze, spits music.
Chimney sweep in the ash-grime
of a burnt out Cadillac.
Now Gribaldi in a top hat
garbles a drink,
bows again to a fire hydrant.
one of the druidic Ellyllon
who squats on the outer rim of a fire,
cobbles out, spits, spats,
chews on the old smoke in his teeth,
hurrays and hoo-hahs the dawn,
chirping birds in his brain,
fire ants in his pants
as he opens his trousers
to wiggle dwiddle…
spills his fortune into the weeds.
I come upon them, here in the grass
in front of the train station, fighting kings
who ignore the economy,
refuse love, refuse me,
refuse all the state-funded
improvement going on.
They’re fathers, really,
of the Church of
“Only the Burnt Out Prodigals Remain...”
And we owe them
for absorbing our nightmares.
They are our speakeasy Philistines,
our best public housing symbols and signs.
They remain a delirious
encomium of ribald drunks
hollering out praises to the morning,
to the dereliction of duty.
One of them bends over,
hurls, flays the fox into a card board box,
raises his roughed-up head
and he coughs up
last night’s drink like a drunken Friar John.
Raises his head to the Fair Maid
of February morning
blossoming up through the foul,
false ceiling of skyline clouds, the sun.
Then they ramble on
in a rain-tree group through the forecastle
of ruined cars,
through open fields
and speckled scrap yards, rumblefish men,
godless men struck with falling sickness,
memory, delirious fantigue—
on through the filibuster of traffic,
through the fill-dyke snow.
Flat-fish dumbbells they are,
corduroy coat minstrels,
walking yesteryear off.
Like flap dragons,
our seed oracles, our fortune tellers,
Ken Meisel the author of five poetry collections, the most recent being Beautiful Rust [Bottom Dog Press: 2009.] This June I was awarded a Kresge Arts Fellowship here in