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."
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 There also were unique little gems that were stunning in their specificity but which will, alas, go unpublished.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!