Escalon, Past the Orchards

Robin Michel

In Escalon past orchards sandwiched between
modest tract homes, a man sits hunched over
beside the railroad tracks as if waiting for a train.

He wears navy slacks, a short-sleeved shirt; his hair
is neatly cut, military style. Some old man, a stranger
by the tracks, head bent low, face hidden.

He is a familiar to me. How often have I seen this man before?
Where was he born?  Where is he going? Who—or what—
is he waiting for?

“Escalon, my grandfather was born here I think,”
says my husband as we drove past the orchards, the houses,
the railroad tracks, the waiting man.

I look back to the old man, who could be my husband’s
Portuguese grandfather born in Escalon, California
more than eighty years ago, now waiting to die

in a big city hospital while a stranger’s blood pumps
through his veins, born in this dusty little rail-track town
but claiming the Azores Islands as his native soil.

The old man, no longer visible through our car’s rear window,
like all of us, marking time.

Robin Michel’s fiction and poetry have been published in anthologies and in print and online journals, including Bird’s Thumb, The New Guard, Rappahannock Review, San Pedro River Review, and Star 82. She lives with her husband in San Francisco.