In this week’s Poetry Friday segment, an homage to friendship and hard times. Flagstaff-based poet James Jay creates an amalgamation of characters wrapped up into one real person, long gone now. Here, he reads “Freddy Arizona and the Trains,” a poem of strength, loss, perseverance and honor.
James Jay: This is “Freddy Arizona and the Trains.”
He limps. You’d expect that.
Legs bowed like lodge pole pines
that somehow got the mind they wanted
to go for a stroll.
For Freddy Arizona has been hit by the train
Survived each time,
No one knows if it’s the same
train each time, every time, except
for a handful of teary eyed conductors
or maybe Freddy Arizona himself.
Hit four times by trains – Freddy A Z,
the miracle of the Copper State!
Freddy presses on.
His right shoulder jutted up
like a big idea about to be birthed;
his jaw fused tight
as a statue waiting
to whistle a tune.
For our man Freddy has been hit
by more than four trains.
The running count: two taxi cabs;
one tourist in a long truck fresh off the lot;
six drunken bicyclists, all in parade-like sequence,
after the bars closed.
Disability? You said it.
He collects from everyone:
lawsuits against the State for which he’s named,
and the checks roll in
and he cashes them
and cashes them:
the tired currency of his paints,
the capital of his wrecks.
He cashes them
as reliably as arthritis
and windy winters.
They run a route
into his dented, old mailbox.
And he scoops them out,
totes the bills over to the taverns,
to the pubs in downtown, in old town.
And for this, of course, Freddy Arizona catches
lots of fists, especially in the firsts
of the months when the cash is fresh.
You find him detoured, delayed in alleys,
pants pockets ripped out
or sprawled on the sidewalks
by the kicked-in newsstands;
slouched into a fresh black eye,
busted nose scabbing up.
Freddy Arizona has been hit by the train
four times; survived each time,
every time. The fists
while frustrating for Freddy
don’t add up to much
in the scheme
of his world where entire states
wear his name. Freddy
Arizona will be there
each first to collect the next
and the next.
Tonight, I sit and drink, sit and stew
and miss Freddy. It’s impossible
to feel sorry for yourself
or anyone else when Freddy Arizona
flops onto the barstool beside you,
and, besides, I owe
his hide at least a beer
or four. As now,
so do you.
Poetry Friday is produced by KNAU’s Gillian Ferris. If you’d like to read a published poem, or submit an original work for consideration, drop an email to Gillian at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Music: "Night Train" by Jimmy Forrest, covered by Earl Bostic, 1952