Is what gets me in trouble!
Because sometimes I am bitter –
& mean. Hypocrisy
fights me into dark corners.
So, that is what is partly on my mind.
As I walk a lonesome brick street
of this neighborhood where once
I went crazy. Dropped acid and lived
to talk about it. & now under this
waning early summer moon, yes
I am feeling sorry for myself,
because this is all about me.
We are all only human …
This darkness that sometimes
we all slip into?
Some know to bite
their tongues and just deal with it.
Some can’t speak softly when peace
is at risk. Some die from trying
to tread softly on middle ground.
What is really on my mind is a truth that
is hard to swallow. My own medicine would
kill any preacher, caught in his own empty
I & You and me and them
and this machine, playing on our vanity.
Mentioning our fears, showing us images
that we have no control over. Images stolen
from broken dreams, war and death, violence.
Our memories thrown in our faces, first thing
in the morning when we are not even ready
for what we may not know was in the past
What is on my mind?
Is what I was told long ago.
This world is not fair.
You have to work hard for what you love.
Speak your mind, except be careful with truth,
sometimes it hurts and can be
used against you like poison.


The Mule and The Donkey

Once upon a time there was a Donkey. She had a certain job she was responsible for. Her job was to look after the farmer’s prized breeding sheep. Protecting the sheep was an important job and she was trained her whole life to be the protector. The farmer knew this job was best suited for her type of donkey.

The farmer had a mule on the farm. This mule was a very stubborn yet a special kind of mule. The Mule also had a certain job in a certain place on the farm. The mule pulled the cart that took the farmer and his family to town when they sold vegetables and wool at the market. Everyday the mule would wait for just a glance of the donkey, as you might imagine, he was in love with the donkey. She had such a special job and was so beautiful and well taken care of. The Mule could not help but stare as she walked by his field every day on her way to her section of the farm.

The Donkey and the Mule started to make eyes at each other. Then, as you can imagine, they fell in love. Well, they slept in the same barn, worked on the same farm and basically did the same job for the farmer. They had so much in common that falling in love was bound to happen.

The donkey had a way of being a donkey the mule didn’t understand. When things got difficult in her field, she would stop doing the work, then bray and bray and bray. When she was not looking after the sheep, sometimes the farmer had her moving rocks, fallen trees and brush from his fields. She really didn’t like this work.

The mule would get to see her all day though. When general farm work was going on, the mule was always tied to a cart, waiting for the farmer to pile it high with whatever he and the Donkey had collected. The Donkey was amazed at how much the farmer could pile on the cart without the mule even making a sound when he pulled it away.

She was in love with how strong the Mule was. The mule didn’t understand why the farmer would make his prized protector Donkey work like she did. She was breed to be a protector of sheep. She came from some hard working Donkey stock however, part of her Donkey bloodline was from a rare Donkey breed that was known for absolute beauty.

One day, some terrible storms were brewing in the West. The Donkey was in her field protecting the sheep and the Mule was off in town with farmer’s boy selling wool and vegetables at the market. The Donkey looked up at the sky and saw that things were getting really Dark. The wind started to howl and blow. The Mule was only a couple of miles away and he noticed how violent the storms were that were coming from the West.

The mule was terribly worried. He knew the donkey was alone at the farm. He knew she would be locked out of the barn. He knew how scared she was of lightning and thunder. When storms came, the Donkey and the Mule would naturally seek shelter in the barn. When storms had come before, the Donkey would hide in her stall and cower down and jump at every little crash of thunder. The mule thought she was funny like that. Sometimes, much to the Donkey’s amazement, the Mule wouldn’t even come into the barn when it was storming outside.

The Donkey, just as the mule feared, was locked out of the barn. A serious wind had come up on the farm. Lighting, thunder and hail. The mule could see from afar that it was storming, but had no idea that the storm was so violent at the farm. He was very concerned for the Donkey. The Donkey was hiding under a pine tree, alone and scared.

What the Mule also didn’t know was that a violent tornado had come with the storm and it was strong enough to knock the Farmer’s barn down. And whoa was the Donkey scared when that happened. She was so scared that all she could do was hide under the Pine tree and bray and bray and bray. She was wet and had been hit by some hail. She watched as the roof of the barn was ripped off and thrown across the field. She listened to the sound of the Tornado as it threw hay, feed and everything that was in the barn all about the farm.

When the farmer and his boy got back to the farm they were very concerned for their barn. The mule was very concerned about the Donkey. He called out for her with his Hee Haw and she brayed and brayed and brayed. The farmer and his son went in to the house and left the Mule tied to the cart. The mule wanted to go find the Donkey. So, he pulled and pulled and got the cart stuck on a tree stump and got free from the cart.

He was so worried about the Donkey. The farm looked terrible with everything scattered about. He was not concerned with the hay. He was not concerned that they would have nowhere to sleep that night. He was seriously concerned for the Donkey.

He could not find her. She would bray and bray, he searched and searched, however, she was hidden from view because a large blue tarp was stretched out over the pine tree that the Donkey was hiding under when the tornado violently tore through the farm.

The Donkey kept braying. The mule kept looking and eventually he found her but he couldn’t free her from the tree. A large section of the barn was stretched across the fence and was pressing the tarp up against the tree and that had the Donkey trapped. So the mule, using his strength, lifted the barn section and got his lead rope tied around a wood plank and pulled and pulled and pulled.

The Donkey brayed and brayed and brayed. All this commotion got the attention of the farmer and his son and they came running from the house. What they saw when they got to where the barn used to be, was something quite amazing. The Mule had freed the Donkey from her trap. The section of the barn that was causing the tarp to cover her from sight, had been pushed and then pulled off and sent falling down crashing across the fence.

The farmer and the boy knew the Mule was pretty strong, but were amazed. The mule had pulled one whole side of the barn away from the Donkey and as he did that, the pine tree snapped in half. The Donkey brayed and brayed and brayed. The Mule just looked at her. He was pretty proud of himself. The Farmer and the boy led the Donkey and the Mule up to the house and tied them to the back porch.

What the mule didn’t know, was that the reason she never left the shelter of the pine tree when the tornado was so close, was because she was holding the gate closed where the sheep were out to pasture. The gate had blown open in the winds and the lock that secured the gate was pulled off. She stayed because she was worried that if she left it open, the sheep would run off when the storm had passed.

What the mule did know was they were not going to have their place to sleep. What the Donkey knew was that her feed and her long afternoon hose down by the farmer’s boy was not going to happen. The mule knew his stall and his bed of hay was spread all about. The Donkey and the Mule were tied up and worried about what was going to happen now that the barn was all but destroyed. 

The mule had strained his back. The Donkey was still hurting from all the hail that had beat on her as the barn was destroyed. They were both tired, hungry and thirsty. The farmer and his son didn’t waste any time. Their house had missed the brunt of the storm, so they got busy taking care to get their work animals a place safe to rest. The darkness of night was close at hand so the farmer worked to get the lock on the gate fixed while the boy gathered hay for the Donkey and Mule.

The Donkey watched as the boy fixed the cart where the Mule had pulled himself free. The farmer rolled up the tarp that was draped over the fence and pine tree. The Mule, noticed the hose the farmer used to water his house garden was close to his head. He got an idea. He knew the Donkey loved it when the farmer’s boy hosed her down after a long day of protecting sheep. So, he freed the hose from the holder, kicked the end with his hoof and held it in his mouth. Turned on the hose and held it across the Donkey’s back. She jumped. She was relieved to find the Mule, smiling with the water dripping down his chin.

After the gate was fixed and the sheep were safe, the boy and the farmer took the tarp and made a makeshift stall for the Donkey and the Mule. They spread hay and placed a large can of feed in the stall. The farmer boy walked behind the house where the Donkey and Mule were and led them over to the stall for the night. The Donkey ate from the feed can and as she ate she thought about how hard the mule must have pulled to free her from her danger.

As the Mule fluffed the hay, he thought about how this stall was pretty small compared to their two separate stalls in the now destroyed barn. The Donkey got her fill of feed and nudged the Mule over to the can. The mule ate his portion and nudged the Donkey back over to the can to see that he had left a little in the bottom for her. The Donkey ate and laid down on the fluffed hay. The mule laid down next to her. He was happy. She was touching his back, her head was rested on the strong mussels he used to pull the barn from the pine tree. The Donkey brayed. The Mule hee hawed, and they slept together and whoa was the mule happy about that. And, they all lived happily ever after!

The End.


Sabbatical of the Belle – A new book!

The Sabbatical of the Belle is a new book of poetry, prose and pictures about leaving a good job on the railroad where I was working for the man every night and day. I would be lying if I said I didn’t lose a minute of sleep thinking about the ways things might have been, however, I’ve washed a lotta dishes up in Louisville. I’ve run a lot of trains down to Tennessee. I never saw the good side of the derby city, till I got a job on a river boat queen. This new book is about that.

The book is about following your bliss.

It’s about making a decision to leave a career, even though everyone thinks your crazy. It’s about transitioning backwards in time and place into the history books of the transportation industry. It’s about long hot summer days on the Ohio River learning and preserving a river way of life that is almost all but gone. This collection is about work and camaraderie. It’s about being just a small part of something much bigger than yourself. 

The Belle of Louisville is a 105 year old National Landmark. She is an awe inspiring piece of western rivers history that is truly something to experience.  The video below is a good example of my source material!

If you would like to support my work, you can do that at the link below.




What We Do: Roy Betts, of the Belle Of Louisville from brian wagner on Vimeo.


Photo by Chase Hermes

A possible chapter one? **draft**

It’s a picturesque nice fall day in October. Rich yellows and reds are reflecting off the Ohio River creating a sunset glare that makes it hard to see out my car windows. My name is John. I am a father, a son and a rail-yard ghost. I am starting a new career at a riverboat casino. The place called simply the boat by the locals, is a massive riverboat that does not go anywhere. Seriously, I have been hired to be a deckhand on a boat that has only one function. To render. Render what is Caesar’s has been going through my head as I walk the long hallways that lead from the hotel parking area to the almost a half mile away casino area. Ceasers was the previous name of this place. Now it is called the Horseshoe.

Last summer I decided to get a job on a steamboat as a deckhand. That almost killed me. Sixteen years before jumping ship, I was a locomotive engineer. I sat on my butt and pulled a throttle, then after a few years on the job, I was replaced by a computer. After years of manually running trains it slowly became my job to blow the horn and babysit a computer while it did what I had so painstakingly learned how to do. Demoralizing to say the least. And I could go on and on, telling railroad stories. Killing people with trains, hitting cows and dogs. Long nights, cold steel rails. All that stuff of lonesome blues Americana.

Many times this week as I walked from the training room to the bathroom, I caught myself speaking in a low tone asking, “what the hell have I got myself into?” Just today while washing my hands, I looked into the mirror and said, “Oh God, I look like my mother!”

Last night was my first shift at the boat. As I walked into the deckhand locker room, coffee was brewing. The locker room reminded me of the many 1950’s style railroad shanties that i had reported to work when I worked them cold steel rails. Old men, lockers, union stickers and newspapers. The size of this vessel is insane. The hardest part of last night was remembering where you were in belly of the whale.
And that metaphor, be it the biblical reference that it is, is epically applied. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. And that rendering was happening all night into the wee early morning hours. Money. This new experience is going to be a trip somewhat liken to a trip into the hearts of darkness. “Never get outta the boat,” was the lesson from the old vietnam era movie Apocalypse Now.
Flashing lights, bells, sounds, people walking around tipsy like zombies. Regular old folks and their working class conversations in the card dealer break areas. In the belly of the whale. If I was a religious man, this whole place exists for sin. If money is at the root of all evil, then this place is certainly a lesson in “whatever floats your boat.” It is what it is.

– The idea that the passage of the magical threshold is a transit into a sphere of rebirth is symbolized in the worldwide womb image of the belly of the whale. The hero, instead of conquering or conciliating the power of the threshold, is swallowed into the unknown, and would appear to have died –

That passage comes from a book by Joseph Campbell titled, The Hero with a Thousand Faces and explains perfectly what I am hoping will happen over this cold third shift winter experience. I am approaching fifty years on this planet. This job is another bullet point, another journey on a resume that is very hard to explain.
The work is mindless, repetitive and to some would be considered demoralizing. We take out the trash. What I hope to gather from this new employment is time. Time looking out over the vastness of the river south of the Falls of the Ohio. Time driving out a river road that I used to travel everyday some twenty two years ago. I am going to fantasy that the native people, whos artifacts this place is built on, will also be in the belly of the whale with me, protecting me on this moored excursion.


Room 101 – An Orwellian Poem

Room 101

Fear, falling to hate like in 1984

The telescreen plays war music

like this video game commercial

and then the enemy is shown

Goldstein / Trump 2018

War is peace!

Freedom is slavery.

Ignorance is strength!


CNN / FOX 2018

&hatred&war& they have us

right where they want us

divided and scared.

– use your anger

Luke, come to the

dark side –

&myth&reality collides

God is in question and they

instill more fear more hate

and some eat it up talk about it

all day …

NPR – Democracy Now

Twitter – and another Ad

another like

another click.

we have been baited

the trap has been set.

This is room 101 –

– unless we remember

to love our neighbor

help our friends and

families we will

fall to their

narrative –

We play offense

full court love and reason

we are down at half

time – in the locker room

beat up – pissed off!

It just doesn’t matter!

It just doesn’t matter!

because love still exists

just as the sun moon and

the rain

children still laugh and

the good shall overtake

the bad.

– An injury to one

is an injury to all –

(Don’t Mourn – Organize)


I do believe!


some day!

1984-19561 (1)

Photo from the Internet Archive – Get the 1984 audiobook here

poems of Rumi

Coleman Barks accompanied
by Marcus Wise (tablas), David Whetstone (sitar),
Celso Maldanado, Michael Meade, and Olatunji (drums)


and everything outside is growing!

Even the tall cypress tree.

We must not leave this place!

Around the lip of the cup we share

these words …

my life is not mine

if someone were to play music –

it would have to be very sweet.

We’re drinking wine but

not through the lips.

We’re sleeping it off but

not in bed.

Rub the cup across your forehead

this day is outside of living and dying.

Give up wanting what other people

have, that way you’re safe.

Where, where can I be safe you ask?

This is not a day for asking questions!

Not a day on any calendar.

This day is conscience of itself.

This day is a lover

bread and gentleness

more manifest than saying can say.

Thoughts take take form with words

but this daylight is beyond and before

thinking and imagining

those two. They are so thirsty but

this gives smoothness to water.

Their mouths are dry and their tired.

The rest of this poem is too

blurry for them to read.