Karen Weyant

In so many of my poems, disobedience means going against what is deemed correct by society. Since many of my works are based loosely on my own childhood, disobedience means not obeying the rules of my parents or the rules of my immediate world, which was a rural, working-class world. But a deeper look reveals that disobedience, especially in this poem, also means expanding one’s own knowledge about what was supposed to be accepted in terms of religious beliefs and ideals.


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Surviving the Rust Belt Apocalypse

That summer when the world was ending,
we teetered on railroad tracks, bare feet hardened
against hot metal, and swam late at night
in the old gravel pit pond, where goosebumps bit
our bare skin. On dares and double dares,
we scaled chain-link fences and took potshots
at the closed factories’ windows where darkness
scowled through broken glass. We ran
at the first pink flash of a police siren,
the tall weeds of our escape route snapping
at our thighs and naked ankles.
We spray painted messages on the boxcars

parked in the East Side Railroad Yard:
The End is Near or Hal Lindsey was Here,
and then, the next morning squirmed through
hot Sunday school sermons, with the minister
preaching hellfire and brimstone.
Everything, it seemed, was burning.

Cigarette butts smoldered on the hot pavement,
blue car exhaust lingered in sidewalk cracks
and ripped screen doors. When a string
of fires set to the abandoned businesses
on North Broad Street became the adult talk
of town, we knew we had to leave.

We walked to Bill Johnson’s farm pasture,
where we fed his four horses apples,
and then named them each for what we knew
about the end: Death, Hunger,War, Pestilence,
the last word slurring from our lips as whispers  
of those nights filled with bourbon and coke,
how each swallow burned, but we still wanted more.


Karen J. Weyant’s poetry and prose has been published in The Barn Owl Review, Caesura, Cold Mountain Review, Hobart, Poetry East, Storm Cellar, River Styx, Waccamaw, and Whiskey Island.  Her most recent collection of poetry, Wearing Heels in the Rust Belt, won Main Street Rag’s 2011 Chapbook contest and was published in 2012. She teaches at Jamestown Community College in Jamestown, New York. In her spare time, she explores the Rust Belt regions of Western New York and Northern Pennsylvania. Her website is www.karenjweyant.com.