Stephen Barile



To the man wearing the leather apron

On the perch of the oak wagon,

a Studebaker-built wagon


Pulled by two tired dray-animals,

The first gasoline-powered truck

Didn’t arrive until 1932.


From his seat on high,

While wagon rolled over cobblestone,

Yelled to the sky—“Ice, who needs ice?”


There was a familiar ring

And echo among the buildings

Down Chauncey Street.


His intonation of the word: Ice

Enticed the wives and widows

To their open-windows.


Wintertime he yelled: “Coal.”

In the intervening months

Depending on weather,


“Coal and ice—who needs

Coal and ice? Co-al and ice!”

In the summer he rarely sold coal.


A pair of ice-tongs

Held over his shoulder with both hands

Two fifty-pound blocks of ice


Up the narrow stairs

Through the hallways and doors

Into the tenement homes.


With coal he drew back the team

And laden wagon in the alleys

To the coal-chutes in the cellars.


Near the boilers, he shoveled

Into the void and darkness

Of an uncovered hole, a measured pile.


For every single transaction

He wrote with a pencil in a receipt book

With pages that curled back. 


When the wagon was empty

The horse plodded at a medium gait

To the icehouse on Dover Street,


Or followed a familiar path

Near the quarry outside the city

To the coal yard.


Every night after his bath

Before he ate his supper

He counted the money in his pocket,


Added charges from the receipt book

And subtracted the cost of coal

(and ice).


Stephen Barile, a Fresno, California native, was educated in the public schools, and attended Fresno City College, Fresno Pacific University, and California State University, Fresno. He is the former chairman of the William Saroyan Society, and a long-time member of the Fresno Poet’s Association. Mr. Barile taught writing at Madera Center Community College, lives and writes in Fresno. His poems have been published extensively, including The Heartland Review, Rio Grande Review, The Packinghouse Review, Undercurrents, The Broad River Review, The San Joaquin Review, Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal, Beginnings, Pharos, and Flies, Cockroaches, and Poets.