Success Comes to Cow Creek

I sit on the tracks, 
a hundred feet from
earth, fifty from the
water. Gerald is
inching toward me
as grim, slow, and
determined as a
season, because he
has no trade and wants 
none. It's been nine months 
since I last listened 
to his fate, but I
know what he will say:
he's the fire hydrant
of the underdog.

When he reaches my
point above the creek,
he sits down without
salutation, and
spits profoundly out
past the edge, and peeks
for meaning in the
ripple it brings. He
scowls. He speaks: when you 
walk down any street 
you see nothing but
of shit and vomit,
and I'm sick of it.
I suggest suicide;
he prefers murder, 
and spits again for 
the sake of all the 
great devout losers.

A conductor's horn 
concerto breaks the 
air, and we, two doomed 
pennies on the track, 
shove off and somersault 
like anesthetized 
fleas, ruffling the 
ideal locomotive 
poised on the water 
with our light, dry bodies. 
Gerald shouts 
terrifically as
he sails downstream like 
a young man with a 
destination. I 
swim toward shore as 
fast as my boots will 
allow; as always, 
neglecting to drown.

From The Lost Pilot, published by Yale University Press, 1961. Copyright © 1961 by James Tate. Reprinted with permission.