Upon Rails of Distractions

By Diane Gonzales Bertrand

I.
Setting sun filters through the streets.
Drivers distracted by tasks, lists,
errands, schedules. Impatient to reach
a destination, sluggish to notice anything
but traffic outside the windshield. Until

the railroad cross bars lower and divide,
red warning signs flash, train whistles echo.
One by one, each car forced to pause, stop, wait.
Disappointment chugs through as the train
rattles over unbending iron tracks, dragging
a line of slow-moving metal companions.

II.
Before modern days of checking cell phones,
Moms used to place the car in park,
turn around and speak to their children, warning
to be on best behavior at Abuelita’s house.

Fathers pressed steady on the brakes, admired
different colors, counted styles of train cars,
then spontaneously broke into song,
I’ve been working on the railroad . . .

III.
Inside our truck, you sigh, shift
into Park. I turn off the radio,
pull a Poem from my purse,
and announce a practice performance.

Each narrative stanza fades away
as dusk arrives. The last line ends
just as the wooden cross bars rise up.

Drivers rouse from their diversions,
moving like trains upon rails of distractions.


Born and raised in the Woodlawn Lake area of San Antonio, Diane Gonzales Bertrand’s first book of poetry, Dawn Flower (2013) earned special recognition from the Texas Writers League. Her new collection, The Taco Magician and Other Poems for Kids / El mago de los tacos y otros poemas para niños, arrives in bookstores November 2019. Bertrand has been published in The Texas Poetry Calendar and VIA Poetry on the Move. In 2018, she was named a city Tricentennial Poet. As Writer-in-Residence at St. Mary’s University, Bertrand teaches composition and creative writing in the English Literature and Language Department.

Image: “Neon Century,” August 2018, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Nikon, Michelle Brooks

Michelle Brooks’ work has been published or is forthcoming in Threepenny Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Iowa Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Natural Bridge and elsewhere. Her poetry collection, Make Yourself Small, was published by Backwaters Press, and her novella, Dead Girl, Live Boy, was published by Storylandia Press.