The Cheshires’ boots dangle into the aisles.
Extravagantly we smoke Player’s Navy Cut,
swig from bullet-pocked hipflasks.
In the reflection playing on tunnel brick,
the train carriage has been commandeered,
the old regiment restored.
We play three card brag for matchsticks–
Cost you more than that to see me, Hughesy,
says John Toal. I’m wise to your game, mate.
Concealing his cards, a tremor runs through
the back of his hand,
pulsing the small inkblot tattoo.
We all have one.
John Toal’s jawline is shattered,
stripped to working sinew, bone–
but not in the train window.
A ticker tape of foreign towns
flashes across his renewed face.
The carriages move like high girders
at the starting point of cities, headless
for the next tunnel. We follow.
One by one we take our leave.
Handgrip nooses twitch from those departed,
sparks show in the window who sat here once.
The pause between every word now a distance.
John Toal lingers at the last station.
Our future selves jack-knife from view.
Published in Maine Review