Road Poets

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American hobo terms

In addition to words that have entered into the vernacular from American hobo terminology—big house, bindlestiff, moniker, cooties, main drag, glad rags, flop, punk—there are others that deserve an appreciative nod and a smile.

Elevated – being stoned or drunk

Grease the track – to be run over by a train

Cow crate – a railroad stock car

Bone orchard – a cemetery

Tokay blanket – drinking alcohol to stay warm

Sky pilot – a preacher

Stemming – panhandling

Boil up – to get oneself as clean as possible

Flip (also On the fly) – to catch a moving train

Doggin’ it – taking the (Greyhound) bus

Rum dum – a drunk

Meave – a young girl hobo

Blowed-in-the-glass – a trustworthy person

California blankets — newspapers

Catch the westbound – to die

And hobos even addressed each other as ‘bo, just one r short of today’s affectionate fraternal greeting.


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Iris  —  Connie Payne

April is a thin place as the Irish say,

the fine line between now and nowhere

stomped into the fooking mud and

the nakedness of life on bare display

—sunlight glinting off frozen marsh

high nests clinging to the barren past.


Can you hear the wind move

through its emptiness?   In April

everything is owned by no one.

We belong to what endured

and once again we are excused,

given nature’s pardon to resume.


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Red Mask  —  Connie Payne