Posted by: cousinbrandon | April 9, 2010

Versus: The Poetry of Cousin Brandon

Having been in Philadelphia this past weekend, I thought I might feature a poem I wrote inspired by my time living in the Roxborough area (near Manayunk), when I was commuting back and forth five days a week via SEPTA and the R6 (which would be the train system in the Philadelphia area, for you non-Philly folks). Every morning I used to walk the two blocks from my apartment down to the Wissahickon stop, grab a copy of the daily Metro, and, headphones in place, plug away at the daily crossword. To be honest, I enjoyed my commute, really. I mean, I came to realize that most of the people who hate their daily commute do so because they’re behind the wheel. Public transportation, although sometimes unreliable, is perfect for such occassions. Granted, I was never derailed and involved in a multi-train collision, so perhaps I’m overly optimistic about the riches of train travel.

The other thing you tend to notice when using public transportation is the familiarity of the whole thing. That is, when you ride the same train (or bus) at the same time every day, you not only develop your own routine, but acclimate to the routines of others. Where people stand, whether or not they listen to music, what they’re reading, etc. So when a new face suddenly pops up when day, it’s actually somewhat jarring. This poem, then, addresses that very issue. And, as is typically the case, this has not been workshopped much less read by anyone. Thanks for reading.

Wissahickon Station, 6:50 AM

It is the same old man who,
as if lost and forgetful
every morning of where he’s been
and, now, going, wanders
first to the empty paper bin
before making his way
to the other one stacked
with last night’s atrocities.
His first pass is a joke.
No way the microscopic
fonts and photos are anything
but garbled. Still, he flips
and folds his paper
as if shaking out a blanket.
He tucks it under his arm.
And then, only after
the Norristown train
slithers up, rests, and pulls away
does he return to whatever
life he emerged from.
In this regularity
I’ve come to wonder
what he’s looking for: maybe
a daughter he’s never known,
who every morning pastes
her wind-chilled face
against the glass, gawking
at his hat, its wrinkled brim,
his zip-front sweatshirt
splotched with sauces, stained with oils.
Maybe she carries him
the length of the train,
plants his image at her desk
with coffee and thinks to cram
his crooked name
into the crossword,
gingerly sipping her mocha,
wondering herself
if tomorrow’s weather,
said to drop ten degrees
overnight, will keep him
from his paper,
and whatever else he wanted.

BD

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