Excerpt: John Abbott

From There Should Be Signs Here


ThereShouldBeSignsHereThere Should Be Signs Here

The viaduct over on the east
side of town is always
the first place to flood after
a big rain, making Riverside Drive
impassable, leaving us no choice
but to take other streets
through other neighborhoods,
the ones where the churches
and schools have achieved 
such a state
of grace
that we can no longer
tell if they are still open
for business or have merely become 
the haunt of delinquents and leaders
of gangs who form their own 
municipalities out of parks
and playgrounds the city can’t
maintain. This division won’t last
forever, at least not without
new codes written in a language
so watered down the ink
bleeds as it touches the page
and the lines all blur
together.

Anthem for a Runaway

Nothing like the stations
left of the dial
or buried in static
transmitted from low
watt shotgun shacks
when you're driving away 
from nothing toward more
nothing it's all you've got
to help you remember
or forget depending on
the state you're in
don't mess with pills
just turn it on
turn it up fuzzed out
guitar boogie shuffle stomp
give me that backbeat
and I'll tap along
against the steering wheel
window down voice raised
above the offbeat
pulse of night

Truck Stop Blues

At midnight the trucker finds himself
In that place where the wheel
And clutch become extensions of thought
The road stretching like the space 
Between dreams. In moments 
Like these the cities appear more
Alike than ever, their ability
To measure distance falling away
By degrees, like the tick of 
The odometer, like darkness passing
Into morning, like the will to keep
His eyes open

When morning comes he finds himself
Parked on the side of the road
The cab silent except for the occasional
Hiss of a passing car
He has no memory of falling 
Asleep or pulling over or even
Shutting off the radio and turning back
The ignition
But the relief he feels
Is quasi-religious and like a recent
Convert he feels the need
To tell his story to anyone
Who will listen, like the priest
Sitting next to him at the diner
Where he stopped for breakfast.
At the end of the story he expects
The priest, a youngish guy with a deep
Tan, to say something profound
Or perhaps bless him
But instead the priest says,
“I know a guy who’s got some stuff
To keep you awake.” A statement which 
Makes the trucker mad for a lot of reasons
Reasons he would like to explain
But his coffee grows cold
And the blacktop outside the window
Calls him like the voice
From a half remembered dream.

John Abbott is a writer, musician, and English instructor who lives with his wife and daughter in Kalamazoo, Michigan. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Potomac Review, Georgetown Review, Hawaii Pacific Review, Arcadia, Atticus Review, upstreet, Underground Voices, Fast Forward: A Collection of Flash Fiction, and many others.

There Should Be Signs Here is available from Wormword Chapbooks.

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