It’s a school day, perfect weather.
Between classes Jimmy (fifteen) wanders
out of there. He takes a sabbatical
from fourth through sixth hour.
Release time for scholarly pursuits,
unexcused. He walks to the railroad trestle,
crossing high over the river. Warm in April,
after infinite winter, Jimmy wishes he was fishing.
Not that he would eat the catch. No one does,
except the rough men who live under
the Logan Street bridge. The toxins
are a problem. When he fishes he releases.
snags them to see what he can manage.
Bluegill, sunfish, sometimes smallmouth bass.
Nothing too weighty on a monofilament line.
But that’s on fishing days, when he has gear.
In his present Jimmy feels the train approaching
before he hears a whistle or the engine. It hums
under his foot, the rail, halfway between
the Grand River’s shores. It’s a long drop
into water that’s maybe not so deep. Six feet?
That’s how to break bones. Jimmy runs
on ties over otherwise wide-open space.
He reaches safety, but after he stood still
half a minute to let the train draw close.
By the time he had to sprint or jump
Jimmy’s lengthening legs stretched
over the shaking structure,
every other alternating tie.
Todd Mercer was nominated for Best of the Net by in 2018. Mercer won the Kent County Dyer-Ives Poetry Prizes and the won Grand Rapids Festival Flash Fiction Prize. Recent work appears in: Down in the Dirt, The Lake, Praxis and Star 82 Review.