4 Poems by William R. Soldan

Punk Noir Magazine


1.

Greyhound

Not the planes you took solo some summers

to see your grandma, your father’s blood.

Not the Amtrak you took with your mother in

dark-of-morning rain to pick up a set of wheels to

get you through winter. But the bus bounding

three days westward. Watching lives, landscapes, 

shaping and shrinking like moments: exchanges in stations, 

the French woman who sat beside you, offered you gum 

in her sweet tongue as you puffed an unlit Camel in OK City, 

just blocks away from buildings scarred by the bomb. 

The one you rode north, tracking miles through gray plains, 

drinking masked brandy, sharing blankets with strangers 

while your wife was getting clean back east. 

The one that never reached your destination 

but arrived each time to take you there. 


2.

Layover

The Whistle Stop Inn—

as if this were some brick and wrought iron lodging

on the cobbled street of a foggy gas-lit square

instead of a dive bar across from a Hoosier state bus terminal.

But what are names but falsehoods anyway,

a drink but a way to kill time?

And if dollars were bullets, buddy, I’d have enough slugs

to pick off the lonely minutes until bodies of hours lay in heaps

all along this cold dead street.

My hands are stiff and splintered from loading and unloading

trucks to get this far (and yet only halfway there),

with cash that’s lasted longer than it ever would have

now that the monkey’s been sent packing.

Sure, it’ll be gone before too long, too soon not to toast those still standing

or falling or lying prone with hands splayed and reaching out, 

those closing the place down or huddled beside the station doors,

spare-changing to cop a shot or a half-pint bottle 

like those on the shelf above the till.

So let’s do this right and finish it off, all of it, what we started

since departing, all that’s left before we go.


3.

Reno

The Biggest Little City in the World, but tonight 

just another dour oasis no different than the last.

Had family out here, gave up north snow for glitz

and blasted sands. Twelve, thirteen years old when

he called collect from a Nevada slam. Years before

he told me why: he’d robbed a casino—the Atlantis

or Peppermill, or maybe the Grand Sierra—that

I was his neph and he loved me like a son.

His sister was out here running, too, keeping Johns to

keep atop a mean jones. Or was it Phoenix or Santa Fe?

Bought me smokes and a cold sixer, took me to a trailer

party in the Wisconsin woods last time I saw her. She’d

had a husband who ate a twelve-gauge slug and left nothing

but a ghost and red memory. Imagine that’d twist a person

a dozen different ways.

I see them the way they were, hell-bent and a hundred feet tall.

We swore he’d outlive us all, but weren’t surprised when he didn’t.

Though I wonder if she’s here, among these tired faces, beneath 

these greasy lights, or elsewhere on the basin, perhaps calling 

along the many faults for someone to bring her home, even far as 

Badwater, sinking into the salt.

4.

In the Shadow of Circling Birds

I’ve had this fantasy since I was young:

coming to a place like this, like so many

passed through to get here, landscape hazed

with heat and spirits, towns like the scattered toys

of some bored Titan, left to warp and rust beneath

a raging star, in wind of dust, in fugitive rain,

to drink fire and the blood of snakes in the curtained

rooms of shoebox motels till dusk, when I’d stumble

booted and whiskey drunk, tumble into the brush of 

a whispering arroyo, eyes to the glittering wheel, which 

would slowly dim and wink out when the sun took its turn, 

plenty of light for the vultures picking at my bones.

William R. Soldan is a fiction writer and poet living in the Ohio Rust Belt. He’s the author of the story collections In Just the Right Light and Lost in the Furrows, with another collection and a novel forthcoming in 2021. He’s published work across genre in a variety of print and online venues, many of which can be found at williamrsoldan.com if you’re interested. You can also find him on Twitter and the like if you’d like to connect.