As the funnel of everyone in Times Square 42nd Street
cascades down the station stairs,
pace and urgent purpose damming
briefly at turnstiles before cleaving
into streams for an 8th or 7th Avenue
train, an A Train, the Two,
and while quick, diverged currents, hot
and breathless, pick platforms, stop
to listen for slivering steel drums
in the wait for translation to work or home,
here, at the side of a narrow island
forty feet under ground,
with a wind-rush and rattle that drive
away agile, enterprising mice,
Ett Tag, Bir Tren,
Mmoja Treni, Een Trein,
Premier Train, Jeden Trenovat,
the red One Train halts
And the motley, mustered public steps
forward, hushed and obscure, hips
shifting at doors in slide-by
witness, separate bodies white
and yellow, brown, black and tan,
pocked or whiskery, whiskeyed, wan,
green, gray, big or bone-house,
the meek, mouthy, angry, lost –
a tourist who trails maps and binoculars
jamming last onto the crowded car.
App-trance and defensive doze,
deft conventions of eye and elbow
mind the tribes. A breath brushes
your strapping hand. The platform passes.
Tumbled from the scrum of Penn Station, 34th Street
a handsome hardboy’s followed by nuns,
louche in blue loafers, who start
with the tame tourist, a fresh mark,
move to a laptop on a clenched lap,
a plugged hummer, a patient cop,
a girl in a green hijab who quits
her Misbaha, nods at the matching habits,
smiling saints panhandling
the parish – the buxom beauty who pulls
open her purse, offering slowly
to a witness of rapt women as she throws
dimes into the can, clink, clink:
“The thing of it is, here’s the thing,
the reason. The reason being: yes.”
Eyes rise to Viva Las Vegas!,
Absolut, a scratched Cadbury ad:
Amy + Elvis – together at last.
Morning unfolds. A uniformed girl, 28th Street
perfumed and stage-painted, twirls
on arrival, greets the hardboy’s attitude
with a teasing parade of school plaid,
half-and-half harlot, ingénue,
in salsa, sour grape, Tabu,
Opined widely by a man who makes 23rd Street
his mute partner blush back,
a blonde by the busty mater, opposite
his signing hands and the black habits.
An icon-minded, common commute
Flourishing below Fashion Avenue
in GAP and caps, Jets, Giants,
Puma, Nike, and tapestry pants,
in the sexy matron, the sibyl, who speaks
with sly and cryptic, wisecrack sadness:
“A known fact: apart. Anonymous,”
During a door delay in which a pigeon, 18th Street
engaged in a serious, moral mission,
preens onto the car, the pride of Chelsea,
an urban bird who avoids the eyes
of travelers, they in turn avoiding the bird
behind pickets of print and posture.
The nuns, surrounded by trousers, smile.
The bumpkin, gaze behaving, smiles.
The worldly pigeon, a positive nodder,
fronts the speechless woman who figures
food with a brown bag at her knees,
and witness-wise, dumb as destiny,
fate or whateverhappenshappens,
eats seeds from her open hand.
Lights flicker. The train, in fits, 14th Street
limps to the Village, St. Vincent’s.
The sage woman, staring intently
at a dark wood of girders and graffiti,
bristles, bosom and big rings:
“The only rebuttal’s love. Longing.”
The cars start. Peeper skews
to Viagra, Visit the Brooklyn Zoo,
listens to chatter blend with brat-
happy prattle, the porn plot
girl who giggles like tickling and sways,
sailor, to the rock and roll of the train,
mix with tin clinks of a can’s
conjured coins, the cluck of nuns,
whole rests from the help-meet
whose pigeon pecks at sunflower seeds,
a tightly fused and multi-tracked
Suite for City in Clickety-Clack.
At Christopher, a drunk curses Christ, Christopher Street
easy credit, his mother, the Mets,
warns of the end of the world and laughs.
No one gets on, no one off.
The train stops short of Houston, Houston Street
stops in the sealed tunnel. Engines
stop, dull lights die
as bodies breathe an undivided sigh.
Lights on. Off. Tense
whispers worm the blind silence,
the stage stripped to underlying time,
a long, long loss of light.
When a Zippo’s flicked at the far end
of the car, the steely woman sends
down a candle, the candle slow
to return in grudged transfer, glow
soft on the row of stoic handlers,
godgift and galoot, gangbanger,
faces awake in dim, driven
epiphany, grace held and given.
The hardboy’s forehead flames with lipstick.
The blowzy bird runs from a kick.
Lights. Jerk of cars. Lurch.
Shoes shuffle, buttocks touch,
breasts and elbows, corps de ballet
in brave, awkward, standing balance.
During the usual shift and witness, Canal Street
the school girl, in gimmick innocence,
leaves with hardboy and his target heart.
“Scratch and match! Tartan. Tats.”
The bird, confident that symbol solves
for self, takes a seat after Canal.
At Franklin, it’s good-bye to the bum, who rises Franklin Street
with help from the hardy nuns, good-bye
to the quiet signers who nod and stand,
fire quiet hand-in-hand.
Riders, their rides ending or begun, Chambers Street
are off and on, fungible, one.
You, with your field glasses and guides,
you become everyone too, quietly beside
yourself in witless, wondering joy,
no longer alone, no longer on the way.
Ett Tag, Bir Tren,
Mmoja Treni, Een Trein…
One: existing whole in a sphere,
a numen or essence and no more.
The reason? The reason being: yes,
the breath and brush of necessary witness,
superposition of drunk and dove,
an oracle, blue loafers, love
struck in fugitive communion, our close
going on the warm, coincident cars.