Cobwebs fill the attic,
Air, charged with static.
I hid the toys there
For years. I could not bear
The joy of giving
Them back to the living,
To the children in the orphan home.
I stole the toys from them, all of whom
Made fun of me when I was there,
Why should I care?
I’ve kept them for myself:
Model cars and planes up on the shelf,
The balls and games inside the closet door,
But most of all the HO-trains ovaling the floor.
Today the sky is darkening and green,
Soon the wind will begin to scream…
I must go and save the toys, get them all
Before they’re siphoned up the cyclone’s wall.
I run and trip and fall; I bang my head
And tumble down the stairs. Dazed, I said,
Gotta catch that train, gotta catch that train,
before it comes—that locomotive wind.
My neck hurts, and my backbone’s broken
But I manage to hobble, and pay my token
To the conductor. I sit and sigh a sigh-of-relief,
I look out the window, watch all my grief
just railroad away, hot steam and cinder flying high.
And in the corner of my Pullman car, my
Toys: the cars and planes and trains.
I shrink away from the windowpanes,
The whirlwind air—the sulfurous yellow air,
Fading in the distance. I smile with not a care.
I turn to see the uniformed man just checking names.
I give to him my one-way ticket all the same
and ask him, Conductor. Please, what will be
The next stop on this line? He looked at me
Real funny, then turned away.
I said, Just a minute, You! Pray tell.
He said, Son, Don’t you know the way?
You’re on the midnight express going straight to hell!
John C. Mannone has work in Artemis Journal, Poetry South, Blue Fifth Review, New England Journal of Medicine, Peacock Journal, Gyroscope Review, Baltimore Review, Pedestal, Pirene’s Fountain, and others. He’s the 2019 Dwarf Stars Anthology editor, a Horror Writers Association Scholarship winner (2017), a Jean Ritchie Fellowship winner in Appalachian literature (2017) and the celebrity judge for the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (2018). He has three poetry collections: Apocalypse (Alban Lake Publishing), which won 3rd place in the 2017 Elgin Book Award; Disabled Monsters (The Linnet’s Wings Press) was featured at the 2016 Southern Festival of Books; and Flux Lines forthcoming in 2019 has love-related poems using science metaphors. He’s been nominated for Pushcart, Rhysling, and Best of the Net awards. He edits poetry for Abyss & Apex, Silver Blade, and Liquid Imagination. He’s a retired professor of physics living between Knoxville and Chattanooga, TN. http://jcmannone.wordpress.com.