In the cellar by the boiler
You jacked the house up to install
Long before I came along.
You take a swallow of your beer,
Eject a dog-colored stream
Into the brass spittoon. Tell me how
An orphan, taken in by farmers
For unpaid labor, you forgot the bread
Baking in the woodstove. A beating
Was certain, so you fled, 12 years old
Riding the rails west.
In the mines, you drove a mule train, liked
Horses better, just like me. You
Joined the Wobblies, damn the bosses.
Met Mary and got hitched after courting
With a rented nag and buggy.
Seven kids, four lived. You loaded coal
On the docks at Calumet. Your tongue
Sliced for cancer, you still had your chaw
Until the day you collapse
Shoveling snow, too stubborn
To wait for help.
Joan Colby lives on a small horse farm in Northern Illinois with her husband and assorted animals. She has had seven books published including "The Lonely Hearts Killers" and "The Atrocity Book". Joan is widely published in such publications as Poetry, Atlanta Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, The New York Quarterly, South Dakota Review, Epoch, and others. She has received two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards and an IAC Literary Fellowship. Joan also received an honorable mention in the 2008 James Hearst Poetry Contest—North American Review and the 2009 Editor’s Choice Contest - Margie, and was a finalist in the 2007 GSU (now New South) Poetry Contest, 2009 Nimrod International Pablo Neruda Prize, 2010 James Hearst Poetry Contest and Ernest J. Poetry Prize. She is currently a finalist in the 2012 Pablo Neruda Prize. A new chapbook “Dead Horses” forthcoming from Future Cycle Press.