Saturday, April 14, 2012

SEPTA Cherry Boy

image borrowed from bing

SEPTA Cherry Boy

There were only a few us standing
on the battered gray-green tiles
of the platform directly beneath
the Philadelphia City Hall, as
I readied myself for my maiden ride
on a subway surface trolley car.

Rising off the concrete bench, I picked up
a discarded copy of the Inquirer.
Thumbing through it; Richard Pryor had just
become severely burned while trying
to freebase cocaine.

The sign read 13th-Juniper Street Station.
Three college girls sauntered by chirping
like ptarmigan, with their designer jeans
painted on. I had to stare at the butt
of the shortest one; prime for pumping.

Two electric trolley buses rolled up,
their berths one behind the other
on the same track.

I boarded the first car and sat near
the rear doors, next to the window;
the seat cover had been duct taped
over switchblade slashes.

The trolley ad over the window, above
the hand rail, announced that some
all-news network called CNN was being launched.

An elbow to my ribs alerted me that
a 300 pound black woman was seating
herself next to me, pressing me
tighter to the bus wall. As we pulled out
we passed a dead end siding
where several broken cars were stored,
jammed up like victims at the 3 a.m.
local emergency room.

At 15th Street we could see dredlocks
of daylight up through some kind of planter grates
below Dilworth Plaza.

“What do you think about Nelson Mandela?”
she asked suddenly.
“You know, South African Apartheid--it’s on the front page
of your fucking newspaper.”
Squirming in my own ignorance I managed to say:
“I’m sorry, I haven’t read it.”
She stared at me like I was just another white moron.
“Christ, man, you gotta keep up with shit. Mandela is
a goddamn hero.”
“OK, I’m sure he is.”

The rattling trolley car burst out from the underground,
driving onto the surface street, paralleling the el tracks,
with the morning sun glaring in the dirty windows.
At 22nd Street I really loved the 1907 classic decor,
just before we dove into the Schuylkill River Tunnel,
braking loudly to slow our downslope speed,
then barreling back up and out onto 30th Street.
That was my stop.

I struggled to move past my massive seat mate.

“Hey, man,” she said sternly.

I turned back to face her.
She was wearing a gorgeous smile,
her eyes sparkling.

“You have a great day.” she said warmly.

And I did.

Glenn Buttkus

April 2012

Posted over on dVerse Poets-Poetics

Would you like to hear the author read this poem to you?


Brian Miller said...

i am glad she was being nice in the end left me with a smile after the reading...nice cultural refs along the way to set a time frame for us of this trip for you...

Beachanny said...

Like a time capsule and I was there. Except of course I wasn't. I was in an ice rink in Colorado ..but I remember it, and I love that you took me to Philly and a ride on something I've never been on. It was fun, and REAL.

Marbles in My Pocket said...

Awesome write, Glenn. Reads like the beginning of a novel. I was ready to kick back and sink myself into some good reading. Nicely done!

Dave King said...

A world away from what I know - and all the more enjoyable for that.

Claudia said...

smiles..i have almost expected a wild fight in the tube with that seat mate...good it was a she and that she was peaceful

Mama Zen said...

This is an outstanding write! Wow!

Anonymous said...

Septa, riding through the underbelly of destitution as a child, never thought I'd escape it, looking at recent images of the route's industrial garbage heap of a landscape and it looks even worse than it did 25-30 yrs ago

The unforgiveable deterioration of what once used to be early Americana