Jimmy’s First Train, Grand Trunk Western
by Todd Mercer
Jimmy at nineteen, full height,
tries out his freedom. He jumps a train
which slows to cross a river trestle. From inside a boxcar,
the America Show live action blurs by out there,
a changing view the open door frames up.
It takes little time to travel fifty miles
from where he swung on. The next chance
to disembark without risking breaking something
is a two-store town, featuring a functioning pay phone.
“Collect call from James,” an operator tells his roommate,
who–thank you—agrees to retrieve him.
The ask is fair, since the guy once called marooned
in Milwaukee, hungover and in search of
a sympathetic ride. Jimmy can’t in general decide
where to find his most fitting life.
One of less constraint. The whistle warbles
in the middle distance. The train proceeds on
without him. Didn’t even know it had him.
Fifty miles from his student-slums apartment,
making sure he learns from what he tries.
Todd Mercer was nominated for Best of the Net in 2018. His chapbook, Life-wish Maintenance is readable at Right Hand Pointing. Recent work appears in: Eunoia Review. The Lake, Mojave River Review, and Praxis. Todd is a contributor to the inaugural edition of Backchannels Journal.