Amtrak Psalm

By Craig van Rooyen

Featured art: Edouard Detaille (1848-1912)

The sway-backed horses of Lompoc don’t spook anymore.
They keep their muzzles pressed, sharing a pulse

while you clatter past, invisible in tinted business class.
And whose business are you minding anyway

as you peek into the pitbull’s backyard wreckage,
glimpse the bad cuts and dye-jobs of students smoking

behind Oxnard’s International College of Beauty? Camarillo,
Moorpark, Simi Valley, recede into heat-shimmer oblivion.

At home, your daughter’s behind a closed door
with Carnivorous Red nails posting stories that dissolve.

The entire universe big-bangs away from her irreducible center
of disdain. I’ll be gone soon enough, you want to say.

So this afternoon you’ve fallen in love with the common
mourning dove, tilting at the wind on his coil of razor wire.

You’re rooting for the tag crew artists
in their neverending arms race with Parks & Rec.

Boomer and Lil’ G, Fatlip and The Dog, Fraho, Buzz,
Rollin’ Sixty and Bashr. Naming themselves

over and over in the middle of the night, learning
like Buddhist masters the lessons of impermanence.

And now you’re waving at ranks of garden gnomes—
little domestic terra cotta soldiers waiting to be found

in the Burbank Home Depot back lot. I see you, you whisper
through the glass at their earnest bearded faces.

I see every one of you.


Craig van Rooyen‘s poems has appeared in 32 Poems, Best New Poets, The Cincinnati Review, Poetry Northwest, Ploughshares, Rattle, Willow Springs, and elsewhere. He lives and writes in San Luis Obispo, California and holds an MFA in poetry from Pacific University.

Originally published in NOR 28

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