April 3, 2012

"Rich Johnson" by Jeffrey Johnson

Jeff's book on Japanese poetics

they called me Ishmael
in the roadside shops,
no truck stops,
in those days

along the two laners
spotted with towns
from east Wisconsin
to Chicago and beyond

i drove through weather
that kept even the best
off the roads
hunkered and huddled indoors

pink sky twisters,
freezing rain,
sideways blizzards,
mistakes were buried six feet under

on that Spanish doubloon
he wagered and nailed to the mast,
i cast my die with all my might
my bid in the gamble of industry

i mounted the crow’s nest
green eyes sharp and peeled
on the horizon
for the prize

through dustbowl wasteland
a generation of best minds,
abandoned in railway cars
begging for sardine tins and a smoke

i pushed on
driving and driven
for what i do not know
and hell, who lives to tell

fearing the whip
sharing a bunk
breathing in desperation
and out desolation

i scratched out
not a living,
but a life
from those roadsides

littered with the broken glass
and dreams
of a hobo generation
that like me lived and died in heroic anonymity