Kurt Wilson  photo

Kurt Wilson photo

I woke to muffled voices,

dishes and pans clattering

on the stove in the kitchen, smelled

coffee and bacon cooking, my mother


making breakfast and a lunch

at 3 a.m. for my dad called

to brake a west bound freight for

the Milwaukee Road. A pair


of eggs basted in bacon grease,

homemade bread toasted black,

sliced an inch thick, slathered

in butter and spread with spun


honey my dad also used to

sweeten his coffee boiled

cloudy-thick, strong and bitter

(the darker the better) as


dark as that Drexel siding

on a moonless December

night when his lantern battery

died—it was like being stuck


inside that long tunnel at Taft—

blind as the dead must be.

A teaspoon of honey smoothed

the acrid edges, helped him


swallow and chew like that fifth

of whiskey in the pantry

(now waiting for me) those bottles

stashed in the shed or his grip,


just a nip from a flask or a pull

off a pint put a smile on the face

of wasted days and nights logging

miles in the cold/hot oily hours


to stay afloat, buy food, shoes,

coats and soap, maybe grab at some

time or a shot of hope—a chance

to lick the nectar from the fire.

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