Journalism In Verse

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Shop Count

in Culture by

noun, Railroad Slang,

the number of out-of-service railroad cars and/or locomotives awaiting repair in a maintenance facility


They wanted advice, and all we could give
Was don’t forget to grease your neck.
Buy good lotion and apply it daily.
It’s what we could say.
They wanted to know how we walked,
Sensibly-heeled, into meetings
Trussed in navy suits and high-tied blouses.
Why we stayed when
(shoofly, humped, highballing)
“how high you could climb if you’d only go down”
(gandydancer, trim lead)
“it’s not my fault your tits get in the way ”
(take the hole, head house, hotbox)
“there’s cake and there’s cock and
it’s your lucky day, fat-ass
we’re all out of cake”

Is common parlance of railroad,
And paid the rent and phone bill.
That today’s mentors were once tormentors.
We wanted to tell them not your boy.
Your man would never. I know. I loved a world
Of railroad men. People change. They do.
Me too.

We can’t change what happened
In the yard. The shouts of cunt and bitch
Clear in the complicit rattle of truck and trains.
We didn’t talk about the shop count then,
Now, we tally our wrecked.  Me. Too.  

What advice can I give, lathering guilt
Like Vaseline before a street fight,
To young women, the latest load of ballast,
But to moisturize, grease your neck,
Stay supple? The hatred still runs deep,
They grab. Your men too.
Hungry for the throat.

 


READ MORE

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Noreen Ellis is a poet and a communication professional with more than 25 years of experience in the transportation industry.  Her poems have been published in Hanging Loose Press, Cease, Cows and the Troubadour International 2016 25 for 20 Poetry Prize.

Image by Dawid Zawila.

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