Red Line

The decrepit T lurches into motion,
Its doors having taken--each--a full bite
Of the human mass that pushes through the tubes
Of Downtown Crossing. Damp, tense, tired, late,
The crowd flows under Tremont Street: so many!

I'm sitting on my buttoned wallet pocket,
Clutching the laptop hidden in my bag.
We fix our eyes on our own pairs of feet
Or on screens that, down here, cannot connect.

After Park (without an r), the pace picks up.
I remember to close my eyes. On each side,
An anonymous shoulder presses mine.
The only sound: that familiar patter
Of wheels' steel on track: tha-thump, thumpy-clack.
It’s been in my ears since cigarette smoke
Still billowed in trains and settled on seats.

It brings to mind that turbid ebb and flow
That Arnold heard as human misery.
Maybe, but it's one pulse for all of us.
As we clatter over the rain-lashed river,
The breath of all the invisibles who ride
With me merges and thickens into one.

See also: sighs, short and frequent, were exhaled; Martha’s Vineyard, August 2009; Robert Lowell at the Indian Killer’s Grave

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About Peter

Associate Dean for Research and the Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Tufts University's Tisch College of Civic Life. Concerned about civic education, civic engagement, and democratic reform in the United States and elsewhere.