The 4 Uptown Express

The baby wasn’t crying so much as trying to get our attention. He blinked his solid brown eyes, clenching them into fresh wrinkles, as if to clear his lenses. He looked up at us, the mashed-together subway riders on the uptown 4.

He shifted his binkie, tethered to the handrail of his old-school steel-framed carriage. He looked left, then right, then up at me, seeming to read the back of my paperback book. I flipped it to the cover, as if to show him the title. His mother glanced at me. “Stand back,” her eyes said, “I don’t know you.” I telepathically sent her a message, hoping it would show on my face, “I have two children, I’m not bad.” Her glare increased. I turned away.

The 4 train is crowded no matter the stop. Compare this to the uptown D train, which is half empty by the time it hits mid-town. I can shave ten to fifteen minutes on my commute by taking the 4, but the 4…oh the 4.

As the train doors opened somewhere near Wall Street, the too crowded passengers fell backwards, spilling out onto the platform, falling into each other’s bodies, tangled up. They clambered to their feet, made regretful and apologetic eye contact with each other, and stoically hurried to work. The mother and carriage shifting towards the center of the car, but there wasn’t any more room over there. New passengers pushed their way on to the car, pressing the mother into her carriage.

Three of the seated people immediately stood up offering her a safe place. She refused. She said aloud, to the empty space between the poles, “If these motherfuckers can’t see that I’m pushing a baby then they can all go to hell.”

The seated people cautiously sat back down, hoping the mother would change her mind. An elderly woman, hissed at her, not maliciously, but to get her attention. She was offering up her seat for the mother. The car drew quiet. Then, just as the doors were about to shut, which would allow the train to continue its lurch forward towards the next stop, one last person tried to push on. She held the doors open. The train conductor was firm on the speaker, “Please use all available doors, there is another train directly behind this one…”

The woman holding the doors yelled into the car, “Is there space over there? I see some space…” A current passenger, a matronly woman, now pressed against the handrail and the half-open doors tried to twist to look into her face. She replied, “Can’t you wait for the next train? There’s no room here.”

“I see it.”

“There’s NO room”

“Can’t everyone just step in a little more?”

‘What makes you so important?”

“I see there’s room…”

The conductors voice grew agitated, “…there is a train DIRECTLY behind this one…”

At that point the mother with the baby carriage had enough. Speaking again to the neutral space, the bit of empty location just above our heads and the roof of the train, where the air might be clearer of heat, dust, and body smells…

“I have a baby here! I’m moving back to the Bronx, people know how to live up there. You Brooklyn people are crazy!”

The Postal Convenience Station

The Postal Convenience Station

I was the third of four postal patrons on the makeshift line. We arched away from the tinted glass aluminum framed door, attempting to allow enough personal space for the next potential patron to enter. The auto-teller was wedged at the front corner, along the glass, away from the walk-in-closet-sized room of PO boxes. At the right was the one big package-size-accepting mailbox for all parcels needing to be mailed.

A mu-mu and sandal-clad elderly woman sat on the low, rough pine bench, resting her arms along her black-metal walker, “I’m taking a break,” she said, “there’s AC in here.” Her hands squeezed the brake levers tightly.

At the front of the line a young woman in standard-issue running gear (white trim navy shorts, t-shirt, white sneakers) was balancing a wide corrugated cardboard rectangular box with her arm, hand and shoulder while also pressing her cell phone to her ear. The box could hold five pairs of shoes, if they were placed side by side, but in transit, it seemed, all shifted to the right. She couldn’t manage. The box would slide, the phone would slide; she juggled these items while reading aloud, to the person on the phone, the entire directions on the auto-teller.

“First class? Priority? Do I weight it? (Pause) Yeah, uh huh (Pause), you said this would be easy…”

As she rubbed her right pointer finger along the deep-browed touch screen she thankfully put the box down on the scale.

“It’s 16 pounds (Pause) I don’t know (Pause) do we insure it?”

The person directly behind her on the line turns to me, “I just need to check to see if I have the right postage…” I turn to the elderly woman on the bench, the witness to this and probably other postal transactions, she sighs, fixes her lipstick with the back of her hand, and shuffles her feet.

“You said this would be easy (Pause) so what do I do now? (Pause) Ok, take this label and stick it on the box? But you already wrote the address…”

I look out of the glass door, more postal patron arrive and hurry towards the back. I hear the click-clank of postal boxes open and shut, papers rustle, tearing and tossing. The sun reflects in long strands off the roof of a black sedan as it backs-up into a no-parking space in front of the station. A man from the grocery store, wiping his hands with his green apron, walks up and points at the sign. The driver rolls his window down, squints, shrugs, and rolls it back up. The grocery-man looks in at us, with the hopeful gaze that we’d agree with him. He dramatically drops his arms to his sides, shakes his head at us, and walks back towards the market. He bumps into a customer, raises his arms as if to hug the man, but doesn’t.

The woman with the unbalanced-box continues, “Pay with debit or credit? (Pause) I don’t know. (Pause) This was your idea…”

Still looking outside through the glass, the walk sign becomes a flashing do-not walk sign. A woman grabs two children by their forearms and rushes them along the crosswalk stripes. Two men in suit-pants and ties ignore the cars and walk at a careful gait from this side to that. A taxi honks.

The sign becomes a solid do-not walk sign, cars flash by, halt, and rumble off. The sign once again becomes a walk sign. The wind picks up for a moment and brushes the pedestrian’s clothes away from their bodies and towards the east river.

I hear the tin clicking of the auto-teller printing out a receipt, the unwieldy-box-shipping must be complete. I look up, the woman’s anxiety has increased, “Ok, so now where do I drop off the box?” She looks at me and the elderly lady. Was she talking to us? I wait to see if she’ll ask us again. Clamping the phone to her neck with her shoulder she shifts towards the back of the station.

As I step up to the auto-teller to gain the correct postage for my envelopes I hear the box-shipper gasp, “It’s stuck, the box is stuck in the drop-box, why did you tell me to put it here? You said this was going to be easy.”

A Slow, Sweet, Wet Seattle Waltz (v1)

A Slow, Sweet, Wet Seattle Waltz

The clouds twist corkscrew towards lightening mist, nearer to the saltwater sound. They faint away miles before the cleft-top peaks that fence all around. Under a taller grey dome of higher sky the lake and sound mirrors the silver. The draped majesty of the statued ranges hide their stark faces in the gauze.

I’m in traffic.

Regimens of windshields pattered with points of silt-fine rain. Wipers don’t swing that slow enough. My glasses fog skin, my hair thickens sponge, and by some magic I can still see sun-pale shadows of the trees along the hedges. Don’t tease me sun, I have a vitamin D deficiency.

“You know, it rains a lot here.”

Un-hatted runners smile along the lake. Bounding in dark tight coveralls on the soaked stones. It could be 70 degrees, but it’s 50. It could be partly cloudy, but it’s all cloudy. The runners run, in stoic abandon, under the force of their inner helix as the rain pelts them furiously, unattended.

The rain falls on all things. It makes this world green.

The lake gazes back at me, slundering its wake under the civil pressure of the low meandering Rainier valley gusts. The water wobbles, mound crests, and slides towards the inlets where beavers build dams so close to the cycles of people exercising, cardio-ing, gaming. From around the curve, a seaplane politely lands. Plump, skid, and mumble. It rolls horizontal behind the hundreds of guarding evergreens.

There are no bugs, except spiders, and bees, and spiders.

How do these dissilient flowers burst so vivid with their faces toughed in the rain? My eye lenses tell my brain, which tells my brain, it should be brighter, but its not. I can’t seem to get my body warmer than my childhood October. The shrubs, incredulous at my shivering, add heft, girth on a daily revival. By the time this week ends they’ll have overtaken the houses.

The fragrant vine that impedes my front door kisses my checks with its leaves. I kiss it back.

I’m told the famed Pacific North-West summer will arrive just as I dip into my departure plane door. I’ll be lifted up and over this land beyond the wintry passes and miss it all. Down there, outside my double-paned window, I’ll look below the wing to where snow is still creviced along the ridge. There are people making a fire, joyfully. While pressing their hands against the heat, which strikes bright lines across their seeing, an eagle studies them, and crests the air with a few crows right behind. They’ll giggle with the time sensitive passion of those things that are fleeting, and hold each other, and be still.

There is love in the Seattle rain. There is love in the Seattle light.

There is love in this Easterner’s heart as I too take flight.

On a friend moving back to my hometown, not his (v3)

For Zach


Hey, so sorry I missed your call
I got your email with your new address
Nice. Good for you.

You’ll be living near that park we like
the one with the corpses of civil war dead
buried shallow in a wide ditch grave underneath

Just below the bouncy plastic playground
where my kid used to stomp after pigeons
the pipes plumbed through the old bones

All those screeches, kids and squirrels
jumping thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump
down onto the dirt gray mats

I’d lay napping in my apartment, across the street
on a beautiful spring afternoon
I used to live there, I don’t anymore

You lived there too. Moved away. Now you do again
Good for you.
Good for you.

Me, I couldn’t wait to escape the useless noise
I have another million reasons written down
And another million better reasons I’m not going back

Now I’m out here, in the heartland
with cheap living, white bread, and ample cheese
I have absolutely no supermarket worries

So, go ahead and enjoy yourself
send me a postcard, whatever
I’ll see it all online anyway

You know, now that I’m thinking
My daughter was born there
She’s more Brooklyn than you’ll ever be

And when you walk through that beautiful park
and the cheerful neighbors chat happy things
with their wide open arms and deeper smiles

don’t forget

All those tragically dead soldiers are staring up at your feet

Color-commentary: Calling the thunder storm

The skies are starting to show the thunderstorm line is soon to arrive. High wispy clouds pull thinner, fail. Low, there, a mass of gray stone seep slow from behind tall oaks. 8:26

The low thunder rolls. Deep rumbles muted by the distance, growing bolder. 8:29

First lightening. Slight thread taught, pinned from cloud bellies, then cut free. 8:31

Twitter poem: Etched

Day etched lines, marks, pins, float.
Dusk lit alphabets, numerals, tones.
If I lift my lids to see you,
they’ll glare,
and be lost.

Twitter Poem: Earth, Flat

Earth, flat slides featherblown across the milkyway.

My dayfeet press flip inches from your nightslippers.

Pliant, we’re all tossed echoes.