Sunday, April 07, 2013

No. 6 (NaPoWriMo 2013)

Morning Commute, Philadephia 1989
By Hannah Six

In those days, the El was neither
air conditioned, nor carpeted. And
the windows opened, so that, on a
white-hot august morning, the wind,
smelling of electric fires and
third rails and decades of oily, black grime
would (someone must have thought) refresh
the riders. Certainly, being buffeted by
a breath-sucking, subway-car gasp
was marginally better than death by convection.
Which is precisely what would have happened,
as you swayed and dozed
to the heaving lullaby
of rattles and bangs
in those boxy old cars,
had they lacked their thoughtful, fetid airflow.

Upon arrival, dazed and bleary,  
at 8th Street station,
when you tumbled from
that stinking, old, silver centipede of a train—
your slick soles peeling, step by step,
from the gummy ceramic tiles,
the lights dimmed  
as though for six o’clock Mass or 
a rose-scented, romantic dinner, 
replete with crisp white linens and flatware 
polished to a mirror shine—
you were (daily) astonished by 
a dank, reviving breeze,
thin, pale air circulating in perpetuity
through the system’s tubercular tunnels.

The current, despite its eye-stinging grit, 
felt good—though it shamed you 
to admit it, even to yourself.
Charging forth from maws as black as pitch,
that fetid torrent was accompanied  
on its lonely wanderings
by blue-white flashes
illuminating mysterious debris
(What mother was it, whose baby’s dirty diapers always
could be picked out in the distance, deep inside the tunnels?)
standing puddles
of antediluvian water.

Onward you tramped, pushed
and pulled by neighbors whose sweat
intermingled with yours
just moments before. Now, anonymous,
individuals no more,
you moved, instead, as
one immense amoebic being,
hurtling stupidly toward
the jaws—
crushing, grinding, revolving and, finally,
spitting you forth,
into another day.


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