The Subway

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Poetry  |  House: Booksie Classic

This poem, along with my poem Central Park, deals with the seedy side of New York City--and by extension nearly all large cities--and the angst, dehumanizing impact attendant to living in a large city with big city problems. They are by far my most negative poems and my most negative view of the dehumanizing nature of large cities that is seldom touched on in postcards or seen by tourists. These are not Hallmark cards, to be sure. Alas, they are honest and reflect a very real aspects of life in the New York City of the late 1970s and early 1980s that are coming around again I am very sad to see and say. the disturbing graffiti I reference in the poem, by the way, is not fanciful. I saw it every day on my way to and from Brooklyn Technical High School for three year in the mid-1970s--along with muggings on the old G train on a regular basis by gangs of marauding young thugs.

The Subway (from Of Pain and Ecstasy: Collected Poems)
I stand alone in the dark Fulton Street subway station,
Breathing in the urine-scented air,
Breathing out clouds of steam,
A subway train rushes along,
Not stopping,
Biting at my eardrums,
With the painful percussion,
Of thousands of people,
Silently screaming,

I don’t want to see,
I don’t want to see,
I don’t want to see,
The air fanned by each subway car,
Rushes against me,
Pushes the ozone and the smell of burnt brake linings,
Into my nostrils,
Along with the air,
Sucked through the iron gratings,
Along miles of Brooklyn sidewalks,
Carrying the odor of a prostitute’s festering sores,
And the cries of a hungry, fatherless child in dirty diapers,
And the hoarse moaning of a city councilman mentoring a young intern,
And the cheap perfume of a fourteen year-old runaway,
Turning $20 tricks in an alley,
Smelling of stale Chinese food and wet dogs,
I don’t want to see,
I don’t want to see,
I don’t want to see,

... the smell of spoiled cabbage soup,
And the rancid remains of a hotdog buried in saurkraut,
And putrid lilies lying in a gutter,
All assaulting me, forcing me backwards,
Until my back presses against,
The grimy once-white tiles,
That coldly burn their graffiti on my spine:
God is dead,
Bake a kike,
Whitey sucks,
Kill the niggers,
I don’t want to see,
I don’t want to see,
I don’t want to see,
The train finally passes,
Its lights receding into the dank,
Dark tunnel beyond the platform,
The screeches and screams slowly die out,
Their echoes sucking behind them,
The smell,
Of my,

Submitted: July 16, 2020

© Copyright 2021 VictorDLopez. All rights reserved.

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