New Yorkers know that their subway cars are peppered not only with advertisements for chemical skin peels and trade schools, but also with sponsored snippets of poetry. It would be noble, perhaps, to enjoy these bits of verse as an artsy escape from the maelstrom of the trains, the screeching of their brakes, the scurrying of rats on tracks, and the other, more generalized difficulties of the commute--but I am not noble in this respect. The choices are often insipid, and the poems seem to me so out of place, uncomfortable, artificial, on their little slanted panes. It seems too desperate, kind of sad, like raising a golden retriever in a New York studio. Poem, run free!
In response, therefore: this. I composed it on my way home tonight. It is the first (and maybe last, depending on feedback) of a series of poems in which lines of "Subway Verse" are interspersed with lines from other ads and posters in the specific subway car. Here goes:
Music, when soft voices die,
must be made available to people with disabilities,
vibrates in the memory--
Odors, when sweet violets sicken
on the subway,
live within the sense they quicken;
please be aware that not all disabilities are visible.
Rose leaves, when the rose is dead--
(you'll be seeing this a lot)
are heaped for the beloved's bed:
This is the symbol of our commitment.
And so thy thoughts
must be in one of the first five cars.
When thou art gone,
Become a dental assistant!
Love itself shall slumber on:
This could be the last ride of his life.
In case you didn't enjoy this, in the words of another subway poster: "It's a work in progress."