The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Annie Stenzel

Hear that lonesome whistle blow


In the first twelve months after the caboose
uncoupled from the crippled train, the quaint
car stood on the siding, grateful for relative peace.
Other traffic shook the ground it stood on
but the wheels were well-braced. Only the sides
trembled occasionally when the world hurtled past.

Then what? Seven years, that number rich in magic,
made their way past the solitary relic. Some crept,
others, for no obvious reason, moved at a dizzying
pace, covering the caboose in dust, rust, and forgetting.
This is year eight, in the East an auspicious number.
Did you notice that flicker of light behind one window?



Annie Stenzel

“Somebody loves us all”


On the train with us this evening:
unspeakable stench.
You really can’t imagine.
He sat alone, with empty seats
on either side and opposite.

No one could endure proximity
and this a rush-hour crowded train
packed end to end with suits
and dresses, coiffeur, clothing, skin all
scrupulously scented.

Positioned near the door, oblivious
to our eyes fixed on his amazing rags
this fellow went about his business:
from a dozen motley pockets he plucked
miscellaneous debris, examined
each specimen gravely,
then dropped it to the floor.

As the train, with its accustomed fanfare
left grateful passengers at station after station
the heap of items grew between his feet—
the near-bare feet with all those sores—

and it was odd to see the leaves,
the bits of moss, the feather, scrap
of redwood bark, a well-scrubbed wishbone
mingled together on the grubby surface; as though
a portion of the forest floor had fled the city
and was speeding through the suburbs, headed home.




ANNIE STENZEL's poems have recently appeared (or are forthcoming) in the journals Ambit, Catamaran Literary Reader, and Quiddity, and online in Rat’s Ass Review, Unsplendid, and Blue Lyra Review.  Her work has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.  She pays the bills by working in a San Francisco law office.



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