On the Road to Satori – Oakland Rail Yard


hobo-john by Roger Hoover

Oakland Rail Yard


at the Oakland rail yard
I listened to the sound of the train whistles’
rasp and moan—engines chugging slowly through the switch yard
the air horns barely picking up enough wind to howl
making sounds like harmonicas

the crackle of the dispatcher’s voice
over the PA system distorted by the noise of the rails
created a sound like the early bluesmen
on the 78 RPM records
the sound of hobos
hitching the rails

I just discovered
the birth of the blues!

I thought as I hopped a parked boxcar
hoping for L.A. southbound

in the middle of the night
the banging of cars’ hook up
lurch to a get-go—
back to sleep
‘til daybreak

Snow—I’m headed
east—over the Sierra Nevada
—Denver for sure by tomorrow!

but it was getting colder and colder
as the train rose to greater altitudes
until just above the tree line
I figured it was so high
the snow couldn’t fall

my leather bomber jacket and
my military down sleeping bag
of no use against the cold
I sat cross-legged in the
open door of the car
to stare at the Void

Mount Shasta appeared
—bald on top with snow at the base
framed in the picture window
of the open freight car door
like the Vision of Death

I could die in this boxcar
be gone without a trace and
no one to tell my story
—I thought

a sudden vision of death
engulfed me—
filled me with awe

if I’m to die today
am I afraid?
no—I thought
I will die in peace

staring in the face of
sparse cold and certain death
I felt a sense of calm

bring it on you
Old Grim Reaper
let it come quickly
for I am but a man
in the grips of death
subtly surprised by
my lack of


4 responses

  1. Fantastic. I realized last night when I was working on another installment of my southwestern horror story that many of the images in my mind that make it to the page in a modified form have been inspired by your poetry and prose.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What!?! Really? That’s great! It’s like the old writers’ circles. Without the network of Ginsberg and Snyder, Burroughs and the rest, Kerouac may never have gotten published, or even accepted, though he was a driving force behind the Beat Poets. We need to generate that kind of a culture here. This is where I want to see this back and forth on WordPress going. Thanks for being honest about it!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Agreed! Although inter-influence can go either way. As you mentioned, it worked out great for Mr. Kerouac and that surely pleased those by whom he was influenced. On the other hand, L. Ron Hubbard used to pal around and share ideas with Korzybski and Heinlein, yet the written legacy he left us is so horribly written that even Tom Cruise has to stretch the truth to the breaking point in order to praise it.

        Liked by 1 person

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