Engineers (On Our Coffee Break)

We used to go

down by the tracks

to throw stones

at the trains

as they went by

There was something

satisfying In the clang

of a rock

bouncing off a tanker

Sometimes we would sit

on the steps

of an old caboose

and pretend we were


on our coffee break

That’s where I was

when I saw him

staggering down the tracks

old pea coat

bottle of mad dog

I heard the train

before I saw it

and I don’t know

how he didn’t

the howl of the whistle

the brakes screaming

as it came into view

I yelled

as loud as I could

but he never heard me

or didn’t care

he never heard the train

or didn’t care

And then he was just


For my father

Leg Hold Trap

They found him

with his foot stuck

in one of those

leg hold traps

The kind with the

steel jaws

that snap shut

when something

steps on them

There was blood

around his mouth

and the skin on his thigh

was torn ragged

where he had tried

to gnaw his way

to freedom

The Power And The Glory

Whiskey on his breath

nicotine on his teeth

Vomit on his shoes

from last night

or before

Dirt on his hands

and face


he leans in close

and whispers


in the power and the glory

of a good stiff


I say

I do

but from the look on his face

he doesn’t believe me

Thinks I’m just being nice

You don’t know the power

he says to me

I order another round

and ask him to teach me

Practice makes perfect

he says

He stands at the bar

like a bishop

at the pulpit

like a politician

on the floor of the senate

like a poet

or a philosopher

or a drunk

with vomit on his shoes


in the power and the glory

and I do

Praise Jesus

I believe


Kneeling in the dark

Seeing the silhouette

Of Father McMahon

Through the screen

Smelling the cheap scotch

And Winston cigarettes

on his breath

Bless me father

For I have sinned

My last confession was

Listing my sins

Like an auditor

Or accountant

I lied three times

I talked back

To my mother five times

I coveted

Lucy Morrison

More times

Than I can count

Let us say

The act of contrition

Kneeling in the chapel

Mumbling prayers

Barely remembered

Gripping the

beaded necklace

Of empty faith

Feeling no redemption

From the malevolent


I am absolved

Of the sins

I did not commit

And damned by

Those unspoken

Bless me father

For I have sinned

My last confession was

Obscured by

A screen

Heard by an old man

With sins of his own

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