The Qua-Train

In four lines stood iambic feet
To board the quatrain from the street.
The poem made of quatrain cars
Passed each four lines like music bars.

Each quatrain car rolled down the track,
First the front, and last the back.
Now that all the poem’s said,
The quatrain signal’s turning read.




I moved the candies on the screen,
Made rows of three, and solved that level—
Man triumphs over his machine.
That game was programmed by the devil,
For what was offered as reward?
A chance to solve another board,
Another puzzle, near the same—
An endless, Sisyphean game!

First published in Asses of Parnassus



First Snow

I moved up north and saw my first new snow
Of feather-falling fairy flakes of ice.
The ground and sky soon turned as white as rice,
And roofs and trees were topped with snowy dough.
I thought, imagining this long ago,
I’d sled and build a snowman once or twice.
Instead, I waited at a coffee bar
All day while guys put snow tires on my car.



Joshua C. Frank works in the field of statistics and lives in the American Heartland.  His poetry has also been published in Snakeskin, The Lyric, Sparks of Calliope, Westward Quarterly, New English Review, and many others, and his short fiction has been published in several journals as well.

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12 Responses

  1. Joseph S. Salemi

    These are three cute little pieces, each one cleverly conceived and constructed.

    The verbal play of “quatrain” and “Qua-train,” along with the deliberate ambiguity of “read – red” in the last line, show a nimble wit and a sense of humor. The speaker’s exasperated comment on the screen-game, ending with a mythological reference, is perfectly done. And “First Snow,” with its opening lines that seem to promise just another sentimental weather comment, all of a sudden concludes with an unexpected deflationary, down-to-earth image of snow tires.

    I’ve been to poetry workshops where the director and most of the other poets would sneer at these poems and call then “unserious,” or “lacking in emotional depth,” “irrelevant to our major problems and issues.” That’s the kind of poisonous criticism that emanates from a large majority in the po-biz world today.

    Poems of this nature are — thank God! — anti-modernist. They are clear, they are verbally neat, and they are not filled with the psychic pain of what Joyce called “our thought-tormented age.” These poems remind us of the truth that some poems can simply be delightful fun.

    • Joshua C. Frank

      Thank you, Joe. That’s really interesting to hear about those poetry workshops. I’m glad to know these are anti-modernist!

  2. Julian D. Woodruff

    I’ll never forget putting chains on my tires to climb a steep grade west of Denver more than 50 years ago. I had to do it bare-handed, and one of my fingers was still numb 2 weeks later.

  3. Roy Eugene Peterson

    These are fun fancy-filled poems that engage and delight. “Turning read” and “Sisyphean game” are wonderful ways to end the first two poems and then having snow tires put on the car taking all day make all three exceedingly humorous as we ponder the quatrains, candy crushes, and wasted time. These three really shine and gave me great pleasure.

  4. Margaret Coats

    Joshua, I like the dexterity of “Qua-train” with subtle formality at the end of each stanza. At line 4 you leave train imagery for music, which is a surprise, but appropriate considering how the musical staff (either the 4-line Gregorian or the upper-and-lower modern notation) resembles a train track. The signal at line 8 belongs with train imagery, but you surprise again by making it “read” instead of “red.” Similar amusement at the end of “First Snow.” I was younger than you with my first experience, and surprised to find that snow is wet. That wouldn’t have made such a good poem as yours!

    • Joshua C. Frank

      Thank you, Margaret. I always enjoy reading your analyses of my poems.

  5. Brian A. Yapko

    These are all wonderful poems, Josh — economical of language and line yet packing a big punch. I found “First Snow” hilarious — especially knowing that this is almost certainly autobiographical. Snow can seem like it imparts a magical fairytale quality to the landscape but it’s easy to get over the romanticizing when you actually have to shovel it and drive in it.

    I relate to “Candy Crush” as I became addicted to the game until I finally quit it cold-turkey. Sisyphean is exactly right because it’s the biggest waste of time imaginable and has no value whatsoever. Forget about improving your mind. But it’s not even entertaining because it’s so darned frustrating and pointless. Better to go outside and practice a real sport or engage in a game with another human being.

    “Qua Train” is a fun poem built on a great metaphor. I’m not usually big on poems about poetry but this was one I really enjoyed. I also really liked that “read”/”red” pun.

    Great work, Josh!

    • Joshua C. Frank

      Thank you Brian! Yes, “First Snow” is a true story; I agree about games like Candy Crush; and I’m glad you like “The Qua-Train” despite its being a poem about poetry.

  6. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Josh, I love these concise poetic confections, especially “First Snow” for the musicality of language (great use of alliteration) – I love “snowy dough”. The way the dreamy image you paint in the opening contrasts with the cold reality in the closing couplet is a masterstroke. Having braced a few bitter whiteouts in my time, I see the picture… clearly.

    I like the wordplay in the “Candy-Crushed” title and the futility you depict in the closing line. “That game was programmed by the devil” is spot on. It reminds of “Snake” on the Nokia phones. I was once hypnotized by this serpent… to the point of embarrassment. Even the mention of it makes me want to give it just one more try… and I thought I was beyond temptation. Very well done indeed!

    • Joshua C. Frank

      Thank you Susan! Your review describes what I was going for with these, so I’m glad I did what I set out to do!


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