It’s become a regular thing for us to free-write at our semi-weekly meetings. We often choose several words randomly out of books, usually just by pointing at a page. The words for this poem were [machine, skeleton, breakfast, accident, engine]. Where do poems come from? Who knows, but I’m particularly proud of this one. I did a little bit of editing after the meeting: took out a lot of gerunds (-ing nouns), replacing some adjectives, tidying up some of my punctuation, but overall, the feel and the theme of the poem are the same as when I wrote it. I hope you enjoy it. Please leave your thoughts in the comments!
Day of the Dead
Smoke fills the air
The people scatter
And the fire glows
The coals burn hot
The bellows bow in and out
The man digs his shoulders
The shovel scrapes the earth
Moving amongst the belts and wires
Shadows melt and reappear
While the heat builds, wavers.
Windows high above
Show the night sky, its blue-black
Scrubbed and grey, a few stars peek from behind the smoke
The constellations are skeletons of their former selves
Swirling in the sky and nearly collapsing
Sugar skulls for Day of the Dead,
They lick the ash from the moon as they travel by
On their way west
They will eat a breakfast feast:
Brunch with the saints.
The stars depart as the sun struggles over the cloud-choked horizon
Dragging itself home like an old, accident-prone alley cat
Who can’t quite find its feet—instead takes a tumble before slinking across the sky
And we, the night shift, the machine,
the parts of the machine, the engine and its pistons,
The cogs and the coal,
Stumble to the nearest bar for steak and eggs and a cold High Life beer;
Sold on the dream that we won’t hold, the machine that runs us instead.