I see him walk between railroad tracks,
black braids sway back and forth,
long fringed vest jangles,
entwined stones collide.
A dog, black and sleek nudges his leg at ready.
Above his head a metal rod with prongs
looms like a goalpost.
Two hawks perch
I scramble to the railroad trestle
keeping him in sight,
grass bites bare legs,
my hand runs along outcropped rock,
traces charred hobo codes
left by transient workers
during the Great Depression,
lined drawings, meant to guide
danger ahead, shelter, food.
Now draped across his back
the folded platform.
On his shoulders, the hawks hunker
yellow-banded curved beaks
yellow claws clutch.
Shelter taken in the shade
of persimmon trees that line the field’s edge.
His fingers probe the bark
small, square blocks
as if searching for signs.
~ Debbie Theiss
Footnote: During the Great Depression, nomadic workers traveled on freight trains to garner work that they could find, not spending too much time in any one town. A unique Hobo Code (hoboglyphics) was developed to communicate and give information about places to camp or find a meal or dangers that lay ahead. In Parsons, Kansas a quilt designed with hobo codes was auctioned during Katy Days in celebration of the strong heritage of freight life in Kansas.
Debbie Theiss is an emerging poet. She won 3rd place in the Japanese Haiku Festival Contest and published poems in the Skinny Journal, Paddle Shots: A River Pretty Anthology, Vol. 2, I-70 Review (September, 1016) and was accepted in Interpretations IV in Columbia, MO. She enjoys nature, bicycling, and gardening.
Thomas Reynolds is an associate English professor at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas, and has published poems in various print and online journals, including New Delta Review, Alabama Literary Review, Aethlon-The Journal of Sport Literature, The MacGuffin, Flint Hills Review, and Prairie Poetry. Woodley Press of Washburn University published his poetry collection Ghost Town Almanac in 2008. His chapbook The Kansas Hermit Poems was published in 2013, and his sports-themed chapbook Small Town Rodeos was published by Spartan Press in 2016.