Jason Baldinger

for souls in need of relief

chase a season dying
over myriad stretches
of backroad no place

fifteen years ago
nothing was solid
I was two jobs clinging
to the edge of forgotten

trying like hell to find myself
in a pack a day
a six pack a night
and sixty hours a week
if your lucky
you find bottom

I scrapped enough
for a road trip
three days across
the grand army of the republic highway
but who thinks of the grand
army anymore with its
glory glory hallelujah

the pennsylvania wilds
in a car with a broken tape deck
two stations fuzz locations
modern country or christian radio
neither provides comfort
for souls in need of relief

muffler men grim reapers
the worst college bars
smoking cigarettes
in bungalows while
streams wash by

this is not escaping or accepting futility
it’s fighting for crumbs
some hope in a salve of nothing

the years leave
memories raw as place
here they claim freedom
shout the sky is falling
hell, maybe it is

at the gas station
a man with sunken eyes
skin pallid enough
to suggest a final destination
says the jake brake is locked
all night coffee and grease
he still won’t make delivery on time
he’ll still be pulling chain
when harrisburg comes
due at nine


Jason Baldinger is a poet and photographer from Pittsburgh, PA.  He is the co-editor of Trailer Park Quarterly and co-runs The Odd-Month Reading Series. He’s penned fifteen books of poetry the newest of which include: A History of Backroads Misplaced: Selected Poems 2010-2020 (Kung Fu Treachery), American Aorta (OAC Books) and This Still Life (Kung Fu Treachery) with James Benger. His first book of photography, Lazarus, was just released. He has two ekphrastic collaborations (with poets Rebecca Schumejda and Robert Dean) forthcoming. His work has appeared across a wide variety of online sites and print journals. You can hear him read from various books on Bandcamp and on lps by The Gotobeds and Theremonster.