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Juniata, 1942

Thomas Patterson





Nothing he thought above the truth of their burned arms
scarred by the furnace shield of yellow, blues, and greens,
nothing above the truth of their glistening backs and shoulders
resembling anvils of flesh and blood;
yet tonight, driving out of the Altoona Yards
he felt as though his life had no meaning at all;
behind the wire fence the workmen flickered by
margined, melting into diamond spaces;
the boy sitting on the Lakemont Park curbing
watches the Octopus cars, on iron tentacles
turning tumbling like forgotten stars
their coronas the waving hair of nine sweet girls, swung
into the blackness by the great geared wheels;
he looks up and picks out the one he’ll marry
and he’ll work like his grandfather aligning the coupling plates
inside the cylinder housing; he’ll lean over
the steel ovens, firing them for the rails; and one
lengthening night, he’ll drive home past the ballpark
down Front Street and by the Cathedral of the
Blessed Sacrament and to the third floor tenement;
he’ll walk through the door and into the parlor;
her voice will be down to a whisper; her throat closed
like a blocked tunnel;
he’ll lie next to her in the dark and from outside
the fireflies on the wind will float toward the room:
he’ll try to picture her then in the same spinning car
so that everything will fit;
he’ll see her head thrown back
and it will seem so perfect; she’ll seem, as then,
a languid, curved, and quartered moon lifting, lifting
into the darkness; nothing, he’ll think, above the truth
of that Juniata night; nothing above the truth of her
black hair falling
against a black planet.




The lithograph above is by Bob Tomolillo and titled "Acirfa."


The poet, Thomas Patterson was educated at the University of Massachusetts - Dartmouth, Rhode Island College, and Northeastern University. His poetry has appeared in numerous journals; recent work appears in Nimrod International Journal (Memory: Lost and Found), Fugue, and Confrontation; new work will appear in The South Carolina Review and Chiron Review. A 2009 poem, "Still Life With Iris and Apples," was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He has, in the past, been a crisis counselor/school social worker in the Fall River, Massachusetts school system and is presently teaching writing and literature at Bristol Community College.

A perfectly healthy sentence, it is true, is extremely rare. For the most part we miss the hue and fragrance of the thought; as if we could be satisfied with the dews of the morning or evening without their colors, or the heavens without their azure. - Henry David Thoreau


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