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Poetic License: Subways were for seeking

By Staff | Jul 19, 2017

Subways were for seeking

where the sidewalk ended

and subways were for descent

into the mouth of station entrance

and subways were for crawling

under the turnstile

and subways were for the stealth

of eight-year-old me down the platform

toward the front car

of the Lexington Avenue Local,

and subways were for once again

to play at Motorman,

right hand firm on the handle

of the locked front car door,

and subways were for imagination

seizing control from the Motorman

coffined in the booth to the right,

yes, subways were for speeding

and slowing the team of cars

through those dusty tunnels

with mock precision and power

and knowledge of every signal,

marker and light –

no one to stop me now,

and subways were for remembering

every detail of the journey,

and for wondering what might be

in the buildings and stores

that sped unseen over me

and for how bright and clear after rain

the city sidewalks might glisten

with unknown angels and delights –

who and what was up there?

Subways were for that last trip

at the front of the train,

when for the first time,

I steered the cars past

149th Street and Third Avenue

and for a moment, just after I lifted

the train from the darkness of tunnel

into the nightmare daylight

of elevated Jackson Avenue station,

my eyes dazzled –

then adjusted to the gray reality

of dreary Bronx buildings

zooming past an elevated railway train –

the enchanting dark gone,

nothing but disappointing light

at the end of the tunnel,

subways were no longer for dreaming

and seeking.

(After taking nearly a century to build, the Second Avenue extension opened on Sunday, December 31, 2016. My career as an imaginary conductor lasted from 1938-1940.)