Halloween, Emery’s Crossing

“On the Run.” Exxonmobil

Red Pegasus has faded
and fled this Mobil gas
station, leaving his winged
trace on a worn sign.
Twin pumps go on
guarding their lonely island,
where slack rubber hoses
hang useless as a bridle
not buckled up in time.

I’m called to pull in
and take the fresh air,
before driving the steep, dirt
road home. I’m called
by steel strings twanging
from the locked-up garage.

A country voice croons
from the ol’ brown radio
I remember that sits on
a dusty side shelf.
Emery, closing his cash,
probably forgot to spin
its gold dial to off.

The voice, stark
and mournful, plays tricks,
sliding Johnny Cash
over the harmonizing airwaves
to the granite stoop. He sets
his lumbering body down.

Clad in a long black
coat, preacher or gunslinger,
he cradles his guitar like a lover
brought back from the dead.
He warms his chilled fingers,
worrying out a run
of scratchy, blue notes.

Just a wayfaring stranger
soon to slip unnoticed
into the rat-gnawed shed
for some hobo sleep, he strums
to the slow train in the glen,
chugga-loo, chugga-lugging
past the Baptist graveyard,
past the owl in the piney wood.

He starts to sway, seized
by a rough and tumble rapture.
His gravelly drawl troubles
the midnight air, as if
a haunt rises up from
under the rutted tarmac
and growls its secret pain
through him. Its roughshod
rumble works to uncross
the roads for ghost riders.
I’m chilled to the bone.

Specks at first surge
out of exile from back
of the West Wind. Their hurling
mass sucks fire from the stars
they pass, whooping, riding
hard across the fenceless,
Great Plains of the Sky.

Gutted pumpkins sputter
and glare. Dogs howl.
A whip of lightning strikes
a skeletal sapling. Green
bark cracks, smoking
by the oily culvert, ashes
all that remains of a hobo’s fire.

[Charlotte Hussey teaches Irish mythology and Breton faery lais at Montreal’s Dawson College. She has published Rue Sainte Famille and The Head Will Continue to Sing. Writing a doctorate on the poet H.D. awakened her love of antiquity and led to her publication of Glossing the Spoils, a collection drawing on Western European mythologies. She has just finished a poetic exploration of the Ballad of Tam Lin. Her poems have appeared in Garden Varieties: An Anthology of the Top Fifty Poems from the National Poetry Contest; 150+ Canada’s History in Poetry; Soul of the Earth: the Awen Anthology of Eco-spiritual Poetry; and in Pagan Muse: Poems of Wisdom and Inspiration. Her work can be found in numerous literary magazine in Canada, the US, and UK. She can be reached at charlotte.hussey@mcgill.ca.]