What Burden Do Those Trains Bear Away: A Memoir in Poems

What Burden Do Those Trains Bear Away: A Memoir in Poems

by Kathleen S. Burgess


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In 1971-72, Kathleen Burgess hitchhiked through Mexico, Central and South America with a lover. These poems tell the story. They are hip, astute, sumptuous, simultaneously accessible and cultured , their hint of the classical journey spun with the unique dangers a woman faces on the road, which couldn't be more timely given recent issues of sexual abuse. Her lyric poems sing of the trek, of love, of time, place, and sensibility. Readers can identify with a young, nubile, daring young woman, indignant about injustice, hungry for the lilt of another language, new foods, and a culture so close yet so far away. The experience transcends the vicarious, in poems so lush, your body slides right in, and wither it goes, the mind and heart follow. Her poems, Chekhovian in their toggle between humor and struggle hardship and sensory opulence, revivify memories. It is no accident, in terms of the gist of the collection, that laughter at times averts tragedy. ↵-Charlene Fix, author of Taking a Walk in My Animal Hat: Poems ===

Kathleen S. Burgess fashions the world of a couple hitchhiking from the United States into Mexico and then into South America: "From the mirage of puddle and sky, / a black Cadillac emerges. Pulls to the berm, / blows up a storm cloud of grit and sting." Burgess's poems delight and entertain and remind us of who we are as they herald a respect for the Journey. Hers is a book whose success comes in letting us ride shotgun on a bona fide adventure, one in which "Breezes spray us / in rainbows, rainbows dispersing the heat, the sting of home."

--Roy Bentley, author of Walking with Eve in the Loved City

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781947504097
Publisher: Bottom Dog Press
Publication date: 09/25/2018
Series: Harmony Poetry
Pages: 96
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.45(d)

About the Author

Kathleen S. Burgess grew up in Urbana, Ohio, with a love of music and writing. At Ohio State University, she attended teach-ins advocating social justice and joined anti-war protests. Following the 1970 Kent State shootings, she joined boyfriend "Ted" in Washington, D.C., where above their apartment by the zoo, a Salvadoran family told of struggles to escape poverty and death.

She and Ted began hitchhiking to South America. Along the way, people sheltered them often in homes without electricity and running water. Ted played guitar while Kathleen collected handmade wind instruments. Artisans taught her tunes she played on those and her silver flute. Her passion for music became a vocation--later teaching students, pre-school through adult in OSU's Creative Arts Program and in public schools in Columbus and Chillicothe, Ohio, where she and husband Jack raised a son and daughter.

After writing poetry for years, she met poet-publisher Jennifer Bosveld and now co-leads Salon Columbus, and workshops with Bistro Poets. She serves as senior editor at Pudding Magazine, and her poems appear in a wide range of literary journals. A book of poems The Wonder Cupboard is forthcoming in 2019. This is her first full-length book.

Read an Excerpt

Going South

We're headed for Nuevo Laredo

in tie-dyed shirts, elephant bell-bottoms,

uniformed for hitchhiking and the Road.

As we stand on the shoulder of U.S. 35

southwest of San Antonio, gravity and

a take-no-prisoners Texas sun press down.

From the mirage of puddle and sky,

a black Cadillac emerges. Pulls to the berm,

blows up a storm cloud of grit and sting.

We shoulder our backpacks, slide in

beside a balding driver, Austin, he says.

The wife's been 'n the hospital f'r months.

It sure gets lonely nights. Y'all b'lieve in

free luv, do ya? He pumps my boyfriend

Ted about his claim on me because

there's no band on my left third finger.

Would ya mind another man on y'r girl?

He speaks as if love were a state like Texas,

lawless, full of heat--hound on a bitch.

While Ted considers, Austin draws me

over, close, pulls my sweating thigh to his.

He glances over one shoulder into the back,

where the sour-sharp breath of a rifle

exhales. S'posin' a man had a long gun?

I kick Ted so hard he winces. An exit looms

a mile ahead. Hey, thanks for the lift, Austin.

Just let us off up…Here! He brakes. We bail.

The Caddy squeals, smokes up the ramp

to the top. A scope reflects silver-white.

We saunter down the road to the overpass,

out of sight in the only shade on the broad

horizon--the two of us and a puffed up

horned toad. Watching both sides now.

Reading Group Guide

Kathleen and "Ted" at Amazon River 1972

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