If you could see the way I go to work,
descending down the tunnel like a drone,
then later huddled on the bus with jerks
who broadcast when they’re on the phone,
you’d know I don’t exactly want to shirk
my duty as to be alone.
Deep down I am a country girl at heart.
Mass transit was a challenge from the start.
In Syracuse, where I grew up upstate,
my transportation usually meant the bus.
Let’s say your curtain’s set to rise at eight,
when evening schedules slow to a crawl,
and you cannot risk coming late.
With no subways, trolleys or vespas,
the only way to get from here to there
meant filling up the tank to drive the car.
In Manhattan, I learned to take the train
and not to land in Brooklyn by mistake.
My entry level job was to retain
what customers we had who bellyached.
The sample issue of the magazine
was something they refused to pay or take.
We signed the cards with names completely sham:
Yours sincerely, Virginia Cunningham.
(In the backseat of a cab suddenly you are
stuck on the upholstery of an idling car–stuck in a bottleneck)
I love my three speed bike. Weaving at noon
between the cabs, leaving them in my wake,
I speed downhill outside the tunnel traffic.
Just now, I pedaled to the market
where I bought leeks, potatoes, melons
then onto the butcher, the library, all done.
Swimming downstream in rivers takes
less muscle than swimming in a pool.
My arms and legs stretch out like superman’s,
then coast, my torso thin and high and tense
to keep from bumping into rocks that jut
and but my shins in shallow water. I swim
in as little as a thimble of water when I get into the groove.
But since the Hudson’s all upstream,
and the East River filled with toxins,
between my house and where I work
I will go on taking the train,
then boarding the bus, or fetching a cab
or riding my bike, ending always as
a pedestrian, crossing the light
on the green while I dream
of the river that lets me swim downstream.