February 1, 2017

Two Poems by Thomas Alan Orr: "Doppelganger" and "Moose Into Osprey"

Thomas Alan Orr is a native New Englander who has lived in Indiana for the past forty years. He lives on a small farm in Shelby County. He raises and shows Flemish Giant rabbits. His most recent book,Tongue to the Anvil, was published in 2014 by Restoration Press. His poetry has been featured in Good Poems, edited by Garrison Keillor, and has appeared in numerous journals.


That night the trestle buckled, spilling tanker cars
into the Big Blue River, Schultz the engineer cried out
to God in anguish, while Mae and Buzz made love
in a rented room above the village bar, their passion
fending off this dark convergence of steel and steel.

Schultz, in the forward cab, hit the air horn a quarter mile
before the crossing – two long blasts, a short, a long –
the universal warning that rang against
the grain elevator and bounced off the window
above the bar, blending with the fervid cries of love.

The big locomotive – a Seventy Mac with a drone –
pulled hard one hundred cars through fog.
Schultz swore he saw a light ahead, beyond the trestle,
something or someone on the tracks – yes –
a child swinging a lantern, a child who looked like Schultz.

Ah, Schultz – occasional Lutheran, twice divorced,
who longed for the child he never had, chasing the rails
these thirty years, town to town, stepping off at times
for two fingers of bourbon and a Lucky Strike –
had seen it before, the figure on the tracks – dear God!

Long past the time of flagmen with lanterns in the dark,
he was haunted by what he dared not name – memory or ghost
or the rail mirage that visits every weary engineer
immersed in the roar of a speeding locomotive –
the honest dread of his own mortal soul.

At the moment the train uncoupled on the trestle,
that coupling in a rented room above the bar
made a child not yet known, less loved
and less desired than the longing in the heart
of Schultz the engineer, on whom be grace and peace.

Moose Into Osprey 

Perhaps it was the taste of salt
In dusky air, or early moonlight,
Or the tide that rose so quietly.
The sound of turning stones beneath
Each wave was sharp and clear as dice
Tossed lightly up against a wall.

The last of the lobster boats chugged
Into the harbor toward the slip.
A wreath of diesel vapor curled
Above the pines along the shore,
Their boughs caressing rocky beach
With quiet murmurs, like a chant.

Without a warning, from the woods
There came a crash, a bellowed call.
It was a giant bull. He strode
The beach with royal swagger, paused.
A fog set in. He looked out toward
The island and began to swim.

His massive crown like driftwood bobbed.
Then fog obscured him as a flash
Of white disturbed the air.
A sudden rush of wings rose up,
Diaphanous and ghostly too,
A vision to unsettle sense.

The osprey hovered, wings spread wide,
As if to shed the final trace
Of fur and antler in the fog.
He disappeared. A whistling note
Rang like a vesper bell. The sea
Was still, the world caught in her spell.

Thomas Alan Orr

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