Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Making Tracks


I only half-remember it.

On a wet, foggy day

William’s Restaurant

paid for me to head south

to learn the secret craft of their

signature cream pies and puffy cinnamon rolls.


It was early when I left,

my dreams in cargo on Amtrak,

for two days of training

by a mom with babies at home

and bruises on her arm.


She talked fast in between

phone calls from home.


Like I said, I only half-remember it now.

The bruises, though, peep through

in dark blue and green

past chocolate-peanut butter and coconut cream

—even that night


when they put me up

in a Motel 6, clean but cheap,

where the manager, wearing a suit,

and nearly twice my age,

dropped me off lingering

and looking for something more.


I shut, and locked, the door,

turned up the fuzzy drone of news

on the too-high-on-the-wall TV,

where I slept stiffly, but out of reach

of the smell of cheap aftershave, baby powder,

and the sticky sweet

of pies and rolls I would never eat.


Next day, white apron donned,

readying flour on my hands and board,

my training abruptly abbreviated

when they apologized: 

my instructor didn’t show.


Did the mirror tell her she shouldn’t go?


I couldn’t wait to get home,

hellish honeymoon over,

dream annulled—


eighteen, and not too old

to switch trains, deciding

that would be my last stroll

through dough for dough.



© 2024 Jennifer Wagner


Shay’s Word Garden Word List

dVerse Poetics:  Traveling by Train


I have only traveled by train a few times; this was one of them.



  1. "Not too old to switch trains...." That line is so wonderful. You tell this tale so well that I can even see her face - and that motel manager, lingering hopefully.

  2. "I couldn't wait to get home" - It felt like you never really left . Perhaps our heart should always leads us. Great poem !

  3. Oh goodness, not such a sweet place for an 18 yr old young woman to be on her own, despite the baked goods. I sometimes think of some of the situations I've been obliged to deal with or gotten into on my own and i think, holy moley it's a good thing I was young because I couldn't/wouldn't do them now on a bet. The mother in me wants to spirit younger you the heck out of there! Creeper motel manager, beat-up baker, everything more than a little off, wow. Sometimes I'm amazed that any of us got this far. As always, you've described it so well that I can almost feel the dust in the air.

  4. This feels surreal .... but it's not. I have read your story/poem multiple times ... feeling so much emotion. The how, the why, the what ... the end??? Brava. Brava.

  5. This was a lovely read, Jennifer—even if this ‘half-memory’ isn’t the most pleasant of remembrances, I really appreciate the sensory detail you put into capturing the experience of going all-in for a job that didn’t turn out to be what you’d hoped for. The short, lyrical lines also really bring out your feelings in compelling ways.

  6. Such a thought provoking write!

  7. The bitter, seamier side of life can hit fast and hard especially at that age, and your story brought back how life-changing those times can be, when you "can't wait to get home," "dream annulled." None of the words, imagery here is wasted, Jen, but hits the target point blank. Beautifully written.

  8. Really well-written, real atmosphere, the descriptive verse had me stunned...the bruises....and yes, too bruised to turn up as the mirror told her...terrific writing and horrific...

  9. Goodness me, Jennifer! What a horrific experience for an eighteen year old! What you must have gone through then! I love how you tell of this not so pleasant experience with an economy of words, so telling yet not one word wasted. An excellent write.

  10. I love the story telling and I cannot imagine what happened to the trainer mom. Good that you are safe and that definitely made it easier for you to change career directions. Really enjoyed this one!

  11. What a fascinating tale you tell! You draw us in so gently then sweep us along. That sense of nervous anticipation and sort of behind the scenes anxiety really translates through as I read on. I so relate to this brave young woman striking out on her own whilst being aware of preying eyes and trying out a path that wasn't for her. The image of those bruises stand out so vividly!

    "Dream annulled -" I love the sense of relief that comes with this line, when fate makes a decision for you. And I'm glad you got home okay! Effortless writing. 💕

  12. In this poem I find myself wanting to save you and applaud you. Fantastic writing!

  13. Fabulous writing, Jennifer. I love, "not too old to switch trains", and "dream annulled".

  14. "Did the mirror tell her she shouldn’t go?" - Wow!


Thank you for your thoughts!