The straw of boxcars

The gigantic interiors on steel wheels
move, punching out sound like
cannon shots:
quietly the grain in bribery to feed the mills;
will there be bread for the poor?
Push it through the slots of their
cardboard domiciles.

No faucet water, their arms and legs
are piled outside
washed with mud, unending cries
like an ER hospital; nurses waiting by the
train stop silos, handing out
smiles from buckets filled with straw-
the gray-faced homeless terrify them.

They stand in a column,
the wheat drudgers. For years they have
eaten dust, drank the
dew from their dangerous skin;
here is their brain machine, it works
without thinking.

They scour the ground for grain powder;
here is their slipper, here is another
as they walk the square patch
of earth for a meal:
they thought death was worth it. They
mold their lips into lies,
are they dead, or are they praying.

The sweat of their efforts tug the
world into a lie. Even the sun-clouds
cannot manage the grief.
Here they come now, the ambulance
gatherers, stacking the poor
in empty boxcars like straw dogs.

The black boot doctor has no mercy
for anyone- he is the hearse
for a dead rail; the priest throws on the
toe tags. His obscenity bulges
before him like a tired rosary. Onlookers
tremble, they clutch the good book.

A third person, it might be god, hairy
as a savior: his heart is too small
to bandage their terrible faults. He
creeps away like a weeping Mary. The
long coffin of colored pine
departs with a marvelous calm. This
is what it is to be complete. It is horrible.

The straw of boxcars

111 comments on “The straw of boxcars

  1. weedjee says:

    When you read this poem by Lance horror no possible you’re a passenger where you can be hearing… people get ready … the train are coming… good travel is a question of lovely reading! . Great again Lance

  2. Very impressive, Lance, thank you !

  3. The poor the lowly workers treated with much disdain and even in death they are looked down upon by those who should be more reverent. The are left unclean only to be placed in a coffin within the box to go where none shall no. Very deep poem.

  4. That’s a grim poem, but it was compelling, too. Read it twice.

  5. Barbara Kasey Smith says:

    Lance, this is just an example of your magnificent words that explode the reader’s minds with a totally different way of bringing a dire situation to life in the minds of those that have never had or experienced it. Images that show totally different views – excellent in every way Dear Friend. Barb:)

  6. murisopsis says:

    A gut punch. I’m weepy but that is because the boxcar for me is a very emotional symbol – too many ended up in the furnaces of Auschwitz et al. no more than straw…

  7. Devon Brock says:

    Such is greed. Such is exploitation. The “freights” know this and they are soothed. The red dye on the banknote cannot be forged.


  8. Oh my Lance…this one!

    You make me hear the sound of their steel wheels “punching out sound like
    cannon shots:”

    You make me see the rows and rows of “cardboard domiciles”

    No water to wash only “buckets filled with straw-‘

    Stunted beyond imagination from their inhuman conditions they are trapped in

    Delirious with hunger they “scour the ground for grain powder;”

    Each verse so powerfully visual. The poem is a horror scene, a horror story, of uneven wealth and exploration and injustice. I found my heart racing at the end and feeling like one of the onlookers at the tracks watching each depart in “The
    long coffin of colored pine”
    Very powerful and unsettling writing Lance. You touch subjects, others prefer to cross the tracks and not see.

    • Please read exploitation instead of exploration…that was a typo

    • Karima, you would be an excellent reviewer of literature- books, short stories… as well as a reviewer of plays and movie; a critic if you will whose expertise would be invaluable in providing a crucial service to benefit millions.
      Not only are your carefully constructed reviews elaborate in the sense of offering a writer essential feedback, but is done in such a way as to aid them in finely tune their work.
      I always, and with great appreciation, look forward to reading your carefully laid out reviews of my poetry. They uplift in such a way as to inspire me to write even better.
      Thank you so sincerely, my dear friend!

  9. Heartwrenching. You call up a time gone by, Lance. Or is it? We in the developed world rarely think of those who still struggle for their daily bread, desperate for each last crumb.

  10. Another amazing poem! Thank you, Lance!

  11. ssfrerking says:

    How we fear those who are without. Or maybe it is ourselves we fear when we see their humanity.

  12. Atipica says:

    Very nice poem, Lance!

  13. Lia says:

    I love the style of this poem, almost prose-like but broken up into poetry, and with the perfect language, the beautiful and piercing phrases, too many to name, but my favourite stanzas were the third and the final. Amazing.

  14. Isha Garg says:

    Oh that ending! Powerfully dark, insightful…and lingering…

  15. suemtravels says:

    Your poetry is beautiful and leaves me speechless – as Keats would say, on the “viewless wings of poesy”…

  16. peggyjoan42 says:

    I can see why you have had many of your works published. This is a very deep and insightful poem.

  17. Terese says:

    Lance, your words cause me to imagine what life apart from the light of Christ would be like when one passes from the here and now. You are gifted with words!

  18. Completely horrible; i.e., completely horrible to have missed your profundity all these long years.

  19. maylynno says:

    That is beautiful! I am glad you came across my blog because I am so happy reading you!

  20. A very intreging tittle. You work profound as always. ✌🌸

  21. Nilesh Kumar says:

    Very impressive 👏👍

  22. Jorge Medico says:

    Thanks for this excellent poem, dealing with a theme that’s a favorite of mine, as you can see by my blog. Be well!

  23. cyrsti says:

    I positively LOVE your work! I am pleased and flattered you are following my blog!

  24. I called by to leave my thanks for your recent decision to follow Learning from Dogs. Thank you!

  25. Well if you would like to write a poem about dogs then I will be pleased to republish it!

  26. You are very gifted with words. And thanks for the likes and the follow.

  27. lampmagician says:

    a bleak and gloomy poesy which opens the door into our every inner dark corner. Thank you 🙏

  28. It isn’t God’s job to ‘fix’ the world’s ailments. It is our job, those of us whom He has allowed to inhabit this earth. He gives us free-will, the freedom to choose whom we will serve here on earth which determines whom we will serve after this earth. The coffin carrying us away does not symbolize ‘complete.’ It symbolizes the completeness of earth’s journey, but the beginning of our afterlife journey. However, you are right; if it did symbolize completeness, it would be quite severe. Blessings!

    • You definitely have a complete grasp of life and the afterlife. Yes, we do have free will, but unfortunately it is more times than not severely abused. That’s why I write the poems I do. Your understanding and support are greatly appreciated!

      • Yes, you are right. Free will is most often abused, especially by those in power–and by those thinking they will gain power. That is why “the peacemakers” are so very persecuted, as Jesus said they would be. Yes, the poetry helps one to work through the choices available. I see that in the dichotomies you present.

      • Thanks so very much for your kind support of my poetry. I write to show my audience my viewpoint of life. It’s up to them to interpret what they read. If it helps them in any way, the better for it. Blessings.

      • Yes, I agree! I appreciate so much that you see quality in my poetry! That means much to me! Thank You!

      • You are most welcome! Peace and light.

  29. Gut wrenching and powerful. Boxcars have an emotional significance for myself as my family were transported thus to slave labour camps by the Nazis.

  30. goranstille says:

    Lovely showing: “All aboard – The train is headed for?”

  31. goranstille says:

    I did read your poem in a generalized manner. I found you ask the big question concerning where are our civilisations heading. We box ourselves into frames of rules, habits, values, making ourselves locked into “same procedure as last year, James”. Where are we going tomorrow? What do human need to do better tomorrow?

    • An excellent overview of my poem and how it relates to our current sociological patterns. Boxing ourselves in no doubt limits any free movement. Despite the pandemic, very few have emerged from within the four walls of habitual normalcy. Yet, we do not like being ‘sheltered in’. We have a very long road before us to seek any guidance.

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