Poetry Friday: Freddy Arizona and the Trains

Jun 22, 2018

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.

Credit Flagstaff Visitor Center

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

four times.

Survived each time,

every 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:

VA Benefits,

lawsuits against the State for which he’s named,

Federal suits,

asbestos filings,

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 gillian.ferris@nau.edu.

Music: "Night Train" by Jimmy Forrest, covered by Earl Bostic, 1952