Resurrecting this long-defunct blog to post up the poem that won me the title of Baffle Bard 2014 at Loughrea this weekend past. Poem should be read slowly and with a definite southern drawl! (I should point out also that poems had to be on the theme 'When the whistle blew')
When that railroad whistle blew,
I knew just what I had to do –
a rooftop leap to carriage seventeen.
With my dynamite packed tight,
ancient wrongs would be put right,
as I robbed that doggone train to
Sitting there above the track,
my memory meandered back
to times when I would work hard for a bean.
And I pondered fate’s dark plot,
which had brought me to this spot,
about to rob the train to
It may seem beyond belief
but I wasn’t born a thief.
I worked damned hard and kept my nose real clean.
Way back east, in Philadelph,
I’d built a life up for myself
and had never even heard of
I took a wife when I was young,
sharp of wits and sharp of tongue,
built a house and lived a life serene.
I amassed a pretty penny,
had some kids (not sure how many,
but one was Jack and one was Rosaline.)
Then one day, upon my land,
waving papers in his hand,
came a railroad man, rumbustious and keen.
And he said they’d bought the deeds
of my house and fields and seeds
to build a track right through to
He had lawmen pointing guns
at my daughters and my sons,
mouthing words distasteful and obscene.
So, instead of getting stroppy,
I just loaded the jalopy,
piled up the highest you have ever seen.
With the other dispossessed,
we tipped the horse and headed west,
hurtin’ bad that folks could be so mean.
And my wife just sat and cried
on that long and dusty ride,
till I was sorry she was coming to
It’s somewhat hazy in my mind –
I think we left some kids behind.
Neither of us checked the damned latrine.
But we still had plenty left,
so we didn’t feel too bereft
on our westward journey down to
We lost another kid or two
when our horse dang lost a shoe,
tripped and stumbled into a ravine.
And I lost one of the girls,
the one with all the golden curls,
in a game of cards ten miles from
Then the Injuns swooped one day,
snatched my wife and rode away.
I didn’t have the will to intervene.
She’d been getting on my nerves
that Injun got what he deserves,
and I jes’ shrugged and plodded on to
There was me and one small kid,
and I ain’t proud of what I did,
but I got scared when she started turning green.
So I left her by a fence,
because there didn’t seem much sense
in the two of us not making
I walked into that there town,
tongue bone dry and bare head brown,
begging to be brought to a shebeen.
I was thirsty, I was broke,
with two lips too cracked to smoke
and I knew right then I hated
Well, I stole myself a gun
to right the wrongs that had been done
and sat up on the mountainside unseen,
to gain what info that I could
as that train passed through the wood
on its way, stuffed full of cash, to
I had to lay to rest that ghost,
hit them where it hurted most,
and so I closely studied its routine.
And I took a little ride
with my eyes full open wide
aboard that rich old train to
So the time had come at last,
the time to even up the past.
I took a final slug from my canteen.
The railroad had destroyed me.
Now the prospect overjoyed me
of robbing that there train to
Through the tunnel burst the train,
like a rat out of a drain.
I counted every wagon to sixteen.
Then, as that railroad whistle blew,
shrill and welcome, right on cue,
I leapt aboard that train for
I woke up in
after three weeks in a coma,
busted legs and busted arm and spleen.
I’d been found there on the track,
lying groaning on my back –
there hadn’t been a carriage seventeen.
Now I take my bowl and wait
just outside the station gate,
darned grateful for each nickel I can glean.
But I shudder and I bristle
when I hear that Goddam whistleof the train, as it heads off to