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John Kelly's Washington

Odes to the Underground

By John Kelly
Thursday, September 23, 2004; Page C11

Poetry in motion.

We use that phrase to describe an athlete or a racehorse. And now, we can use it to describe public transportation in Washington.

Although that, I suppose, might better be called "poetry immobile."

_____By John Kelly_____
Help for Bears in Disrepair (The Washington Post, Sep 22, 2004)
In One Door and Not the Other (The Washington Post, Sep 21, 2004)
Answer Man: Boy ISO Government Girl (The Washington Post, Sep 20, 2004)
Some People, They Just Take, Take, Take (The Washington Post, Sep 17, 2004)
More Columns
_____Live Discussions_____
John Kelly's Washington Live (Live Online, Sep 24, 2004)
John Kelly's Washington Live (Live Online, Sep 17, 2004)
John Kelly's Washington Live (Live Online, Sep 10, 2004)

A few weeks ago, I asked readers to put fingertip to keyboard, or pen to paper, and compose poems that took as their inspiration our beloved, belabored Metro system. The results, as always, were hugely entertaining.

Certain subgenres were apparent: crowded trains, broken escalators, smelly fellow passengers. There also were unique little gems that were stunning in their specificity but which will, alas, go unpublished. (I'm thinking here of Michael Galkovsky's poem about watching a man vomit into a plastic bag on the Metro and Deborah Smith's poem about mold growing in the Metrorail train's carpet, written in the style of Edgar Allan Poe and the only entry that included the word "stachybotrys.")

Then there was Arlington's Richard Garrison, who in a mere four lines described how the trash from eating on the subway could cause a dangerous conflagration: "Those greasy fries/ Will swell your thighs/ And feed the fires/ Twixt Metro's ties."

Here are other runners-up, starting with a nice Petrarchan sonnet:

How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways.

I hate thee to the depth and breadth and height

My curses reach, for surely 'tis not right

Your trains should burdened be by such delays

I hate thee for the station master, dour,

With surly mien and marked lack of tact,

Who with a snarled reply doth o'er react

To simple enquiries about the hour.

I hate thee simply for incompetence

That penalizes that poor client whom

Your shoddy escalator maintenance

Doth force to climb stairs higher than Mount Doom.

And Heaven help the weary trav'ler, tense,

Who finds himself in need of a restroom!

Dane Gleason, Annapolis

Metro opens doors.

But when on a six-car train

Too crowded to shut.

Tom McCammon, Reston

She's staring at me.

My tie? Rugged good looks? No.

I'm blocking the map.

Michael Woods, Arlington

The bus will be late if I'm early

But early if I'm late.

Either way, It's Murphy's Law!

I'm gonna have to wait.

Michele Carsrud, Beltsville

It's the craziest thing I've ever seen:

If I wait for a Yellow, it's bound to be Green.

If I'm looking for Orange and I know that it's due,

The next train arriving is bound to be Blue.

Marion Reh Gurfein, Arlington

Our incoming train is now showing.

We hope this one doesn't need towing.

With patience worn thin,

You may ask, "Where's it been?"

The answer is: back where it's going.

Carol Ostrow, Laurel

On a four-car train

After the longest delay

Stop touching my butt

Robin Llewellyn, Cheverly

By my side you sit with me.

Arm to arm. Knee to knee.

I hear your sighs, I hear you breathe.

I'll share your germs if you should sneeze.

Yet I can't know your joy or pain.

And we shall never meet again.

You're just my seatmate on the train.

Pat Flowe, Springfield

It is more of a pain in the behind

To ride the train that reminds anyone with a brain

That the city is run by fumbling and bumbling crooks

The escalator at Shaw might not ever get fixed

But the Smithsonian or Foggy Bottom one is up and running quick

Doors closing on the working class poor

Who must now pay more

To commute for basic means of survival.

Held liable to be in a hot hurry to go nowhere and do nothing

Can't all these arm-chair PhD's think of something

To generate the missing operating funds?

Too stuck on those dum-dums.

Advertise to capitalize.

People get bored hearing worthless babble about other lives.

Begin thinking, planning and taking action for tomorrow's future accomplishments

Not dwelling on yesterday's past failures.

John Muller, Washington

Tomorrow: More Metro poems, and our grand prize winner!


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