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Gerry LaFemina

Post Card to Charles Wright from a Recording Studio in Bristol, Virginia

Charles, today in the birthplace of country music I recorded guttural rock & roll, then crossed the double yellow line on the main drag to enter Tennessee. Then back again. How easy to move between two states. Like the drop in your low rider line: both break and continuation. Like light: both wave and particle, even as it wanes in the dwarf orchard at dusk, reducing the corporeal world to shadow. How often have I oscillated between grief and joy, how readily one becomes the other. This is why I love the prose poem. There’s hunger’s pangs and the pleasure of anticipation, too. I went for dinner in a dive bar where Hank Williams stopped the night his heart surprised him with its final struck chord, a D minor, dissonant with only a bit of twang. He hadn’t eaten there, but let me tell you, the hamburgers were to die for.

Postcard to Jan Beatty from the CSX Rail Depot, Cumberland, Maryland

Dear Jan, I’m thinking of you on a train across Canada and of my earliest memory—the rattle and racket of the elevated F line out my window in Brooklyn, how that rhythm pulled me into dreams I can’t remember. The voice of my nightmares remains the screech of steel wheel brakes. What do we do with the blurry faces of absent fathers, the various ways they can be unknown? What do we do with the sparks sent flying so they seem to burn within us? What do we do with the fact that we all may be clown babies? The conductor as he passes counting passengers could be a lost relative he looks so familiar, after all. Or is this a lie we tell ourselves. Out here, the boxcars are being pushed together to make new trains from old. The way the cars hitch together like words or friendships. I used to walk with my son along the freight line that ran through our backyard in Michigan, the tracks another mad river of steel and speed: look in either direction and it was heading away, past the horizon, to whatever next town awaited.

Gerry LaFeminas most recent books are The Pursuit: A Meditation on Happiness (creative nonfiction) and Baby Steps for Doomsday Prepping (prose poems). A new collection of poems, After the War for Independence, will come out later this year.  A noted arts activist who has served on the Board of Directors of the AWP and edited numerous literary journals and anthologies, LaFemina founded the Center for Literary Arts at Frostburg State University, where he is a Professor of English, serves as a Mentor in the MFA Program at Carlow University, and is a current Fulbright Specialist in Writing, Literature, and American Culture. In his “off” time he is the principal songwriter and front man for western Maryland original rockers, The Downstrokes.


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