Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Time Wasting

When I'm alone at Afton Station and I have no visitors, there are two things I tend to do in order to divert my attention from things that ought to be done, such as cleaning, restocking shelves, etc. One is just about the most ridiculous waste of time I've ever devised and, believe me, I've devised a lot of them! I count trucks. This started when the grocer across the street was quoted in a TV interview as saying that 60 trucks roar through Afton every day. I knew that his estimate was unbelievably low, so one day I counted every truck (just over-the-road semis, not little pickups or panel trucks) that went past in ONE HOUR'S time. My count was 65. I've counted countless times since then, including on weekends and various weekdays and at different times of the day, and my totals have always ranged between 45 and 100 per hour, with the average being around 70. Multiply that by 24 hours and you get approximately 840. I've never counted trucks in the middle of the night, but I'm assuming that the truck traffic decreases then, so I'll settle for about 700 trucks per day. That's a whole lot more than 60! I think the grocer misspoke.

The other activity in which I dabble when I'm at Afton and feeling bored is writing poetry. I've always written poetry, but when I'm at Afton Station I tend to write about what I see around me. I don't claim to be much of a poet, and I'm sure that the moment I post one of my poems here I'm going to regret it with great embarrassment. But here goes....

Behind the Station is a former small, one-story hospital that is now used as a day center for adult patients with mental difficulties from around the county. They are brought in and out by bus each day, and they frequently shuffle around the town, expressionless, or wander across the street to buy soda and cigarettes from the grocery store. Since the county is notorious for being a hotbed of crystal meth use, I am quite certain that many of the patients' disabilities stem from long-time drug use. Watching them inspired this poem:


Zombie village
Step on a crack.
Five steps forward
Ten steps back.

Round the block
Smile, frown
Toward the bridge
Back to town.

Life has made
A mess of him.
Mind in tatters
Outlook grim.

One step, two steps
Crystal meth.
One step closer
To his death.

Now that I've got you all depressed, here's another (mercifully, the last!). There used to be a funeral parlor in one of the abandoned storefronts across the street from the Station. You should know that before you read the poem, which is inspired by what I saw one day.


Is this a secret tryst?
Pulled up to the curb
Next to the mortuary
Summer Sunday morning
Compatible vehicles
She with the rustiest truck ever
He with the rolled-over van.
She of the bottle blonde and tattoos
He of the wife-beater and gut.
They smoke together
And split a Big Mac which she provides.
Their eyes never leave one another
For fifteen minutes at least.
But wait.
He unlocks the door
Of the abandoned funeral parlor
And suddenly I cannot tell
From business
From death.
As she wheels out an embalming gurney
And I feel like a most hopeless romantic.

Okey dokey, enough bad poetry for one day.....


Beth said...


I could imagine exactly what you were describing, and I tend to the sort of "morbid" as well, so I thought they were great!

I hope you will post more. I'm delighted with your writing!

Love, Beth

Anonymous said...

Another helping, please. Wish I could spend all day counting trucks and writing poetry with you.