"What's the world for you if you can't make it up the way you want."

-Jazz, Toni Morrison

Aftershock, Balloons, and Train Ride

Aftershock, Balloons, and Train Ride


It could be the aftershock of birth
trying to get it right; the tremor
of an imperceptible rumbling
beneath the surface.
The moving of a liquid core
looks for balance as if other lifetimes
have hung out the story of their shrouds
to dry in the winds of a new journey.

Always a choice: 
Accept/reject salvation, forgiveness,
walk a smooth path, no upheavals of  faith, 
no rocks to stumble over.

Still there is the discomfort,
familiar as old chenille robes, 
that occupies nights, scribes lonely dreams,
welcomes my visions, opens my mouth,
to find release, find words,
to connect with other tremulous shadows,
to bring home egos riding in small vessels
along the shoreline of a smoky sea
made of molten hope.




difficult to let loose the strings
on the balloon bouquet.
Semi-porous, elastic, 
a protective skin tells the story
of how I learned to float.

wary of existence.

been times when,
while hovering in my own ether,
I have felt the thin spheres
pierced by compassion. 

about family and avoidance,
about holding onto the strings, 
about fear of  landing
in the warm, suffocating, stricture of home.

about love as a profound embarrassment.

Mother and Father.

This is recognition of steel tipped arrows, 
of what not being present does
in the rarified air of regrets.



Train Ride

I'm on a platform
populated by shadow people
who carry their poetry
in the creases of their faces,
in the folds of their clothes,
wadded up in clenched fists
jammed into their pockets.

I  stand  
towards the middle,
never near the edge.

I close my eyes, see my father.
He is leaving.
He is racing, coat flapping behind him, 
running on the yellow line. 
I am frightened.
He leans out tempting the third rail,
craning his neck
looking for a light
barreling towards him.
He sends Mother love poems
cut from Southern newspapers .

I open my eyes, wait.

It is here. 
Doors open, I enter.
They are with me;
jostling each other, standing, 
hanging onto fragile straps, 
shadow hands wrapped around silver poles,
holding on, balancing, 
riding the stops and starts on legs akimbo.
Snippets of poems on scraps of paper
are tossed willy-nilly in the rumbling air.

The shadows are talking.

Above the sound of hot metal, 
they speak in a cacophony of poetry.
I don't understand the lineage.
Who gave birth to whom?
What rhythms, what cadences came first?
Who are these shadows that have rubbed against me,
leaving the hair on my arms standing at attention?

Perhaps I got on the wrong train.
Perhaps I have thrown caution onto the tracks. 
Perhaps I am riding with them for their blessings
to not have to know it all,
not yet, 
maybe not ever.

Charlene Stegman Moskal is a Fellow of the NJ Writing Project and a Teaching Artist with The Alzheimer's Poetry Project. Her poems have been published in: "CLARK; Poetry from Clark County, Nevada"; "Legs of Tumbleweed; Wings of Lace, An Anthology of Literature by Nevada Women", and many others.

Cover photo by Sagar Patil on Unsplash

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