Just yesterday at a local bookstore that sells used books and rare first editions I happened across a find: Poems in Motion, 100 Poems from the Subways and Buses, the result of a collaboration between MTA New York City Transit and the Poetry Society of America that began in 1992. I remember reading about this a while back so it was a delight to encounter the book on a shelf and take it with me on our walk home (which might have been a bus ride on our fare-free local transit but we spent long enough in the bookstore that we missed the bus, which only runs once an hour these days). The book isn’t a collection of poems about transportation, it’s a collection of poems brief enough to post in a bus or in a subway station for people to read as they ride or wait. A delightful use of public space indeed!
As I add more books to my accumulation of those to be read I have tough choices to make—kind of like deciding which way to turn at a corner if I’m out for a ramble or a bike exploration with no particular destination or time constraint. Here I’ve chosen a snippet from each poem, not necessarily its opening lines, to give you a signpost pointing to the reason I included it in this collection.
“Here Is the Road” by Arlene Gay
Be gentle with your fellow travelers
as they move through the world of stone and stars
whirling with you yet every one alone.
“The Road” by Muriel Rukeyser
your wish pursuing
past the junction, the fork, the suburban station,
well-travelled six-lane highway planned for safety.
“A Journey” by Nikki Giovanni
It’s a journey . . . that I propose . . . I am not the guide . . . nor technical assistant . . . I will be your fellow passenger . . .
“Missing the Boat” by Naomi Shihab Nye
The boat shouted, waving bright flags,
its silver hull blinding in the sunlight.
But you had this idea you were going by train.
“After an Hour of Writing, Still No Train” by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer
but we all know that the train whistles
because it is leaving, heading somewhere else,
not here. It can be so hard to be here.
“Wheels” by Jim Daniels
on his Harley Sportster
with his wife on the back
his son in a car seat
with his own steering wheel
my brother leaning over him
Meanwhile, a seat awaits on a distant plane.
I’ll be on it come morning, and this comedy of preparations will be behind me and
I’ll buckle myself in and face forward.
“Return to Winter” by Elaine Terranova
I pushed into the floorboard
as if I were doing the driving,
as if I could halt
the laws of physics,
“Driving to Town Late to Mail a Letter” by Robert Bly
There is a privacy I love in this snowy night.
Driving around, I will waste more time.
“Emily Dickinson in Houston” by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer
All around us cars weave
and unweave, changing lanes,
charging the world with an unbraiding
“Traveling the Same Road” by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer
you, the livid one who even now
is hurling names at the other travelers
on the same paved path.
“The Moose” by Elizabeth Bishop
through late afternoon
a bus journeys west,
the windshield flashing pink,
pink glancing off of metal,
brushing the dented flank
of blue, beat-up enamel;
“Theories of Time and Space” by Natasha Trethewey
You can get there from here, though
there’s no going home.
Everywhere you go will be somewhere
you’ve never been.