Poems March 2023
New Jersey Transit, 1982
Just follow me and make a beeline
Past seedy kiosks, donut shops.
We’ll navigate in fashion feline
The drunks, panhandlers, transit cops,
And tourists looking apprehensive.
Since Amtrak is so damned expensive
We’ll take New Jersey Transit which
Requires us to make a switch
In Trenton. Having purchased tickets,
We wait until the spit-flap board
Shows us which track to hurry toward.
Regrettably, no singing crickets
Are heard here though I read somewhere
One’s at the station in Times Square.
And there’s our signal. One last sprint to
The platform where the call repeats
For us to board. We hustle into
The silver box and take our seats,
And now the train departs Penn Station.
New Jersey’s gorgeous desolation
Reveals its slag heaps, fetid sloughs,
Abandoned truckyards. You can drowse,
I’ll gaze upon this miracle or
Apocalypse, this view—of hell?
Of heaven? I can never tell.
We slide beneath a sky the color
That Wallace Stevens, in a mood,
Called “ice and fire and solitude.”
How many times I’ve made this journey
On college break, or for a job,
Or ill-advised romantic tourney,
And felt the same peculiar throb
At the idea of disembarking
Somewhere en route, and no one marking
My disappearance. Carefully
In Newark, Edison, or Rahway,
A secret agent who’s been told
He’ll never come in from the cold,
A Jonah fleeing before Yahweh
Except my whale would never cast
Me back onto the shore at last.
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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 41 Number 7, on page 34
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