The Back Story by Helen Losse

When you enter the woods,
look for tall pines,
rocks and moss beside the fading path.
If you dare to go onward,
ignore the sound of the wind
whistling through twilight’s chill.

Near the clearing for the railroad track,
few leaves still cling,
and pieces of coal—
shaken from loaded hoppers—
rest on ballast in front of decaying
Wooden box cars with balloon-letter graffiti.

Each chunk of coal waits near six
rusted oil drums, under the Full Snow Moon.
Poor, gleaning children
come just before dawn
to harvest, to gather for winter warmth.
children guard rocks like diamonds.

Then on, past first-light shadows,
where fire charred tree limbs,
a house—burned-out and abandoned—
slid downhill toward the stream.
A man escaped but later died,
body badly burned, lungs filled

with thick, black smoke.
Was the woman inside—
pregnant and seeking her way out—
the one who struck a match?
Accident or crime? We walked all night
through wooded remnants
of purposeful existence. But without

the authority of history,
how much can we actually know
of the back story?  Did the gov’t once
give reason to follow?  Is it now
past its prime?  Are citizens victims
of the American Dream?

3 Responses to “The Back Story by Helen Losse”

  1. […] “The Back Story” is my first poetry publication of 2012.  Thanks to Scot Siegel of The Rusty Truck. […]

  2. Congratulations Helen, on Back Story! You make me think with your poems. 🙂

  3. The Back Story evokes memories of walking the tracks and looking at fallen coal from my childhood. At the same time, the powerful image of the woman seeking an escape, literal and metaphorical, leaves a tightness in my throat. What is happening in the story and in our society?

    Great work, Helen!

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