Aug. 21, 2002

Softly By Tracks

by Buzz Potter

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Poem: "Softly by Tracks," by Buzz Potter from Around the Jungle Fire (The Hobo Press).

Softly by Tracks

I stood by the main in the soft August rain
And watched as her headlight appeared
She crested the hill with a low moaning quill
Then proceeded through signals just cleared

And the clunk of the gear brought a soft welling tear
As I stood there alone in the night
And I felt once again that deep yearning yen
That all us old ramblers must fight

Then she whistled a name that sounded the same
As a lover I knew long ago
I'd met her out there in the clean prairie air
In the rising sun's soft warming glow

I'd seen her at night in a campfire's light
I'd heard her soft call on the plains
I'd tasted her love in the rain from above
And slept with her often on trains

And the romance we knew I often review
And I savor the fond memory
Of the sweet cunning way that she led me astray
As soft as a south wind at sea

I remember her now but I can't recall how
I lost her and she slipped away
She sometimes comes back when I stand by the track
Then she sings and I must look away

And the rivers and streams still carry my dreams
Out where the long freighters roll
And the memories gleam as the lone whistle scream
Still calls to my wandering soul

As the years roll on by, I still wonder why
I miss her and long for her so
And her name in the end was freedom, my friend
A lover that most never know

The train passes by and there's mist in my eye
And it's not from the soft falling rain
And I know I'll be back to this place by the track
To watch freedom go by on the train

On this day in 1831, Nikolai Gogol, 22 years old, went down to the printer to see the production of his early work, Evenings on a Farm. He found the typesetters sitting and laughing at his jokes, and he knew then that he was going to be a success.

On this day in 1858, the historic Lincoln-Douglas debates began in Illinois. The first one-in Ottawa, Illinois-drew 12,000 listeners. This was in the days when Senators were elected not by popular vote, but by a joint ballot of the legislature-and the Illinois legislature, in 1856, was dominated by Democrats. Douglas went on to win that fall's election to the Senate, but the debates gave Lincoln national exposure and led to his nomination for president by the new Republican Party two years later.

It's the birthday of illustrator Aubrey Beardsley, born in Brighton, England (1872). He was famous as a member of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, and also as the creator of erotic drawings.

It's the birthday of jazz great Count (William) Basie, born in Red Bank, New Jersey (1904). He went west to Kansas City where he made his reputation and also picked up his nickname.

It's the birthday of novelist Robert Stone, born in Brooklyn (1937). His mother was schizophrenic; his father abandoned the family when Stone was a baby. After spending time in an orphanage, the boy bounced from one Catholic school to another, dropping out before graduation to enlist in the peacetime Navy (1955-58). After studying for two years at N.Y.U., he went to New Orleans and hung out with Leroi Jones and Gregory Corso and read his poetry to jazz accompaniment in the French Quarter. Then it was off to California, where he became one of Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters, riding their bus on its 1964 cross-country jaunt. Stone's second novel, Dog Soldiers (1974), was the one that made his reputation. His other books include Children of Light (1986) and Outerbridge Reach (1992).

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