by E. Michael Desilets

There were weekends at the Happy Swallow
when gap toothed women took nothing from him
but his pay envelope and a few
whiskey primed memories of his years
as a Penn Central brakeman.

He’d wave his imaginary lantern at them
or sometimes his bar stool
and recite raspy snatches of “Railroad Bill”
or “The Wreck of the Old 97.”
He could imitate a train whistle perfectly
(a signal that “The Wabash Cannonball” was on the way)
if he took out his dentures.

In time he drank himself
into the corner booth by the men’s room
and pretty much disappeared except
for the blue bandanna and the overalls
and the last few notes of “The Midnight Special.”