A few years back I roused my rotting carcass to write some poems. I’m looking at them now because I have some time and nowhere to go. Of course those poems were written before the events of this spring, the pandemic and protests around the death of George Floyd. Everything that existed before will have to shift a bit, argue anew it’s rationale for existence. My poems are the private garden of an uninteresting man. And also at times very abstract. These poems aren’t trying to fix any of the many things that need fixing. If a bit of odd introspection isn’t appropriate right now, I’m fine with that. I wasn’t taking up any space anyway. Just in the natural order of things, without a national reckoning happening, I should probably have already been consigned to the dust heap so the young can claim the age old rites as their personal inventions. The poem that I am posting below was published in 2015 on a website that was defunct by 2017 or so. Sometimes the defunct web journals stay on the web, like ghost ships. This one disappeared like a stone in a well. What started me on this post, was musing over whether it would have been better to have been published in an equally obscure print journal just for the souvenir of the printed journal on my shelf. Then as you can see some unprocessed stuff came bubbling up. Of course, I am grateful to have been in the journal and that the editors and readers of Here/There Poety read and liked the poem enough to choose it. The least bit of attention can feel like water when you are walking in the poetic dessert. I just misspelled desert on purpose. See how awful it is when one seeks approval. The poem is definitely an artifact from before times. I can tell because it is about riding the subway, something that I haven’t done for a little over three months.
“For Smith and Ninth…”
(A service announcement on the F-line, heard approximately from 2010-2012)
Some conductors swing it,
Flattening the vowels on the heavy beat
And snapping short the consonants.
Some of them mumble
Like it’s too much to give
Their voices to all these strangers.
The one today has got no rhythm,
Syllables held too long and given up too easily.
None of the notes hitting lucky,
Each remaining off-key in a key-less song.
In the absence of art, I think I know him.
I hear his too earnest song to women,
His stubbornness in singing it,
Until one, to his amazement,
Puts her hand on his shoulder
And corrects with silence.
Maybe a woman like the one standing above me.
She wants to join with summer
By being alluring.
I see her in front of morning’s mirror
Evaluating herself, using her hand to smooth
The tremors of doubt in the flat field
Between her hips.
This is all I know
Of these strangers in a train full of strangers.
It is almost more than I can bear.