Lisa J. Cihlar

Always Running Parallel

Ride the commuter train into the City
of Chicago from the far west suburbs,
where nothing bad ever happens.
Between the third to the last stop
and the last stop, everything outside
the dirt traced window shows
how a different life could be.
Fallen porches, broken windows,
curtains made of old torn sheets.
The man in the weed crowded lot,
where perfect blue chicory bloom,
holds his dick in his hand and pees toward the train
for anyone to see.

Grandma Edna writes a note
on her calendar when the blackberries
along the tracks probably ripen.
A freight train whistles past.
Only the engineer sees the old woman
in a blue flowered, cotton housedress
picking an ice-cream pail full
with pie filling.

The engineer is waiting for his wife
of twenty three years to leave him
for a different life,
where a husband sits across the table
every night and talks.
When did he run out of things to say?
When was his head so full of sunsets
and landscapes that it log jammed
into silence? He will try to remember
the old lady picking fruit,
and tell a story even if it is a lie.

The man in the caboose memorizes
poetry on the way to places
he will never walk. He wants to be ready
when his mouth opens
in a dark bar that smells brandy sweet,
sounds of pool balls clicking,
and another redhead
slides onto the cracked vinyl stool
next to him and orders a gin and tonic.

Lisa J. Cihlar lives in rural southern Wisconsin. Her poems have appeared in Word Riot, Wicked Alice, and Salome. She was recently selected a runner-up in the Wisconsin People and Ideas poetry contest.