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While I was gone to visit my family in Joplin, MO,

I had two poems, “There’s “nothing new under the sun,” and Rail fanning,” published in Rusty Truck

Val made sure our poems from 16 poets came up correctly on The Dead Mule


I had a poetry reading in Joplin.

Featured Poet

Popcorn and Poetry

Dining Room

Foxberry Terrace

4316 N. St Louis Avenue

Webb City, MO 64870

Friday, August 3, 2012 2:30 pm

Now we’re back.  Do poets ever rest?  🙂

Bill and I left home Tuesday May 3 and returned last night about 10 pm,

and while we visited Bill’s family in Knoxville, TN and mine in Joplin, MO,

while we celebrated Mother’s Day and my Mother’s 90th Birthday, with High Tea (Thanks to Pam Howerton, Kim Jones, Amy DeArmond, and Amanda Stone)

while I read at the Main Street Rag Showcase at the Writer’s Place in Kansas City with Paul Corman-Roberts (Thanks to Shawn Pavey)

while we chased trains and traveled home,

the Winston-Salem Journal ran a feature article in Relish on me and the publication of my new book Seriously Dangerous, (Thanks to free lance writer Andrea Brill)

Willows Wept Review published my poem, “What People Do,”    (Thanks to editor Troy Urquhart)

Rusty Truck published two poems, “The egg that flew out of the bush,” and “Ode to Niceness, Low & High,”    (Thanks to editor Scot Young.)

The Wild Goose Poetry Review published a poem, “Of Summer Lovers, Winter Storm-Clouds,”  (Thanks to editor Scott Owens) and the first full length review of Seriously Dangerous by a literary magazine, (Thanks to reviewer-poet Nancy Posey)

and I was invited to read (as one two featured writers) at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill on August 11.  (Thanks to Stan Absher and Debra Kaufman).   YES!

Life is good,

and while we were gone, the earth did not stand still.  Imagine that.  🙂

On Saturday, I’ll be in Spencer, NC from 9 am – 5 pm as part of the Family Rail Days Festival at the NC Transportation Museum.

I’ll be there reading from and signing copies of  Better With Friends as a part of the 2nd Saturdays Program sponsored by The North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources and the North Carolina Arts Council.

2nd Saturday

North Carolina Arts Council


Family Rail Days Festival
North Carolina Transportation Museum
411 S. Salisbury Ave.
Spencer, NC 28159

June 12-13, 2010  8am-5pm

I’ll be in the Roundhouse on Saturday

signing books and reading throughout the day
as a part of 2nd Saturdays
A program of the Department of Cultural Resources



        —for Bill

We went to North Platte to watch trains.

Up before dawn, we found them
      at Sutherland, in the park by the tracks.
And when the sun came up, we saw—too—
the fields, where hundreds of cows stood,
stinking together. We took
photos from the bridge that safely took
schoolchildren over the mainlines.

The sky was a wash, but it didn’t really rain.
An engine idled—ditch lights glowing—
as dawn brightened near a convenience store,
where Luke the conductor was gone for coffee.
                 Then talking to Bill,
he said his inter-modal had left the night before
from Cheyenne: UP 5117—
bottle-necked now with the other trains:
trains carrying cars, oil, the ones
from the Powder River Basin with their weighty
loads of low-sulfur coal—waiting,
ten miles west of North Platte, for orders to move.

Then, on—both we and the trains—
          to the famous Bailey Yard,
eight miles in length, and cold as north wind could
manage in October, as we stood on the Visitor’s Center
platform. Below us were more cows.
And “Oh!” said my urban nose, “Where’s the bathroom?”
I said it, too. (Check the tape). Evergreens
swayed with the wind, twittered with gathering birds.

UP’s yard engines pushed railroad cars—
squealing and screeching—down from the hump,
sorting by destination—both the loaded and the empty—
while 5117 and other road engines refueled
at the Diesel Shop, off to our right.

first published in The Centrifugal Eye

Note: View at Bailey Yard was prior to construction of the Golden Spike Tower.

I’m back from a two week trip to Joplin, Missouri to visit family and to Kansas to rail fan.  Details to follow.

Home greeted me with 220 e-mail messages.  That’s just on one account.    One of the those messages was the acceptance of a poem for the Fall Issue of Blue Fifth Review.   Thanks Sam.


Better With Friends
for Paul

Yesterday three friends sat in folding chairs in front of their cars,
waiting for trains.

So naturally this morning, as the fog bears down once again
on the tree line at the back of the yard,

I’m seeking—in prayer—that perfect phrase,
as if memory weren’t powerful enough for the capture.

A few evergreens, rhododendron for hope,
grow on the side of a hill with the orange of the berries of the holly.

The train sounded its whistle,
while dark diesel-smoke rose, drifting above the blue Conrail,

starting where a road crosses the track and a sign says Dendron,
smoke blowing back toward the east, darkening,

for a moment, a small part of the sky. We watched the engineer wave,
as—even in January—we came prepared with blankets for our legs:

Our radios talked and cameras clicked. The train chugged up the Blue Ridge,
the mountain leaf-brown, washed-out, and winter-lovely.

first published in Southern Hum Appalachian Issue

New work from eight poets, Dale Wisely, Jilly Dybka, Ross White, Leslie Joseph, Jessie Carty, Evie Shockley, Tim Peeler and Carter Monroe, will be published on or about November 20. I am completing an interview with Evie Shockley that will be online the same day. Photographs by Bill Losse will be published at this time. Other genres will be online later.

The Dead Mule, under the editorship of Valerie MacEwan, publishes southern literature, as it has done for over ten years, but please remember we’re a family not a publication credit. All Mule editors put their families’ needs and their own health before Mule work. We have lives. We solve problems. We get sick. We have limited time, but we do work hard on the Mule.

We change our publication date from time to time due to any or none of the reasons stated above. And as we have stated previously, all poems will be left justified. To post them otherwise is just too time consuming. We don’t need this issue to cause us as many problems as the last one did. We hope our poets understand and tread softly; we are people. Think of editors as your “poetic parents.” LOL

Helen Losse
Poetry Editor

My idea of a vacation does not include a blow-by-blow account of it, due at the end, so this isn’t one. I do, however, want to share a few highlights. And because some have asked, I will say that none of Bill’s many pictures will be posted on my blog. The photos are Bill’s; the blog is mine. The plan is for some of Bill’s photos to appear in the November Mule.

On the way to Joplin, we stopped in Memphis to take pictures of trains and then again in Arkansas at Mammoth Spring State Park. Since we were there on a Monday, the museum in the depot was closed. But we met Connie Agnew, an interesting woman whose husband was a retired BNSF engineer, walking her dog. As we walked along the path with her, we chatted about our shared love of trains. Bill even snapped a couple of pictures of trains going through the park, while I bought a T-shirt that said, “Ozark Mountains” on the front.

Our family had wonderful get-togethers on five of the six nights we were in Joplin. We ate pizza and Kentucky Fried Chicken. We ate buffalo burgers that Michael cooked on the grill. We went to First Christian Church, where I grew up. We went out after church to eat fish and pie. We shared memories and love.

On the night we didn’t get together with family, we ate dinner at Arde’s Villa. Our dear friend Grace took Bill, my mother, and I there on Saturday evening. We had good food and wine and heard live show-tune music. A vase of roses was on the table. We even shared a choclaty dessert before going to Grace’s house for more conversation. The evening ended all too quickly.

Another highlight was Mason City, Iowa that we visited on the way home. “Mason City is home to the only remaining electric freight-hauling railroad in the entire United States. Visitors can see this one of kind train in operation on almost any day – especially weekends – while traveling on 19th St. SW / County Rd B 35 which runs parallel to the Iowa Terminal electric railroad. ” That’s why we went to Mason City. Bill got great pictures and just had one enlarged to hang in a local optomotrist’s waiting room.

Near Webster City, south and east of Mason City, we had seen windmills in the corn fields. The windmills look like this:

photo, windmills

We learned later that corn and soy beans are the cash crops of Iowa. While photographing trains near Cedar Rapids, Iowa, we watched farmers harvest soy beans. Also in Cedar Rapids, we visited St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church. The kind parish manager, Dave, unlocked the church so we could go in. It was beautiful.

I didn’t not blog, read e-mail, or write poetry for fourteen days. Now that’s what I call a vacation. But we rode a long way to get home.

Yesterday we went rail fanning in Western Virginia. We left home at 7:30 am and drove about three hours (north from Winston-Salem on 52 and I-77, then west on I-81) to Saint Paul, Virginia, where we began rail fanning, following a tour guide from Frograil for Norfolk Southern in Eastern Appalachia from Saint Paul, Virginia to Frisco, Tennessee.


We saw a train parked at Boody East, our first location, for a crew change. We didn’t see many more. What we did see was lots of track (interesting crossings, etc.) and some beautiful, beautiful mountains. We got about halfway (to Big Stone Gap) and realized it was 5 pm, so we decided to stop trying to locate each place in the guide and drive to Natural Tunnel State Park (also in the guide) before it got dark. We got there too late in the day to enjoy the park’s fascillities.



Natural Tunnel State Park is in Duffield, Virginia. (See pictures and official site) This tunnel has been called – by American poet William Jennings Bryant – the “Eighth Wonder of the World. ” A railroad track runs through the tunnel. Bill was able to photogragh some cars going through the tunnel but the engine had already passed. We would like to have been there longer, but a sign said, Park Closes at Dusk, so we went on our way. We heard another train in the valley as we were leaving and caught part of it a bit futher on. We then drove home, stopping for supper and arriving here about 11:15 pm.


We hope to finish the tour and return to Natural Tunnel State Park, perhaps in the fall.

March 2023