Railroad Bridge, Rice Lake, Wisconsin

Railroad Bridge, Rice Lake, Wisconsin

Summer, late afternoon. Say, a Thursday. A man stands
on the far end of the railroad bridge, dangles his pole
over the Red Cedar River, hopes to catch his dinner,
a bass the size of a newborn son. Next to his scuffed
boot, a tackle box: lures, bobbers, pint of Old Grand Dad.
He winds up, casts, reels back, casts again. His line snaps
in the mossy air, the wooden lure hitting the water in vain.
Even the fish are trying to swim away from this town.
His tired Buick sits crooked on the edge of the curved spur
leading to the laminate plant up river that laid him off
last fall. The tracks that cross the bridge are amputated.
From there, a bike trail grows north. Nothing else does.
The orphaned depot waits for an arriving passenger train,
but this town is built for departure. And the man stays,
searches his house late at night for what he once had,
walks past the unused nursery, touches his wife’s photo
on the mantle, shaves, showers and studies the want ads
for something else entirely, but having no less disappeared.

Paul Scot August

Published in Passages North, Volume 31.1 – Winter/Spring 2010

Hear it read here by Nic Sebastian on Whale Sound!


4 Responses to “Railroad Bridge, Rice Lake, Wisconsin”

  1. Penny Hackett-Evans Says:

    This is an honest and moving poem, Paul. congrats on the publication of it.

  2. paulscotaugust Says:

    Thanks, Penny!

  3. Dear Paul:
    I really like your poem. I know this is unsolicited, but I feel like the poem ends with “an arriving passenger train.” “This town is built for departure” seems redundant; you already “show” this more effectively (and humorously) with line eight: “Even the fish are trying to swim away from this town.” What remains of the last five lines takes me out of the scene and, therefore, the poem, which seems like the opposite intention of the poet. The wife detail, the job search, all of this stuff seems a little overwritten. The sense of loss is already apparent (and beautifully understated) in what happens above.

    Also, I kind of wish “in vain” at the end of line seven could be shown rather than told. This would only take a little physical detail, I think.

    Again, I know these comments are unsolicited. Stumbling across your poem, I just felt like it was so close to being finished that I had to write something. Feel free, of course, to ignore me!

    All best,


    • paulscotaugust Says:

      Brian, thanks for the input. I will take it to heart for future poems. I always appreciate any suggestions. (but this poem was already Published in Passages North, Volume 31.1 – Winter/Spring 2010)

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