Riding The El In Il

Nobody ever looks happy when they’re riding subway trains,
but I try to appear that way, smiling towards every cute girl
stepping on warily after waiting on factory line platforms.
I fall in love with most of them immediately, especially those
who smile back and keep smiling, even in clouded confusion.

Maybe it’s odd then to be foreign and friendly on subway trains,
and that’s why we all sit in shunned silence, as if on our way
to our own fast-tracked funerals at one-hundred miles an hour,
our bullet-shaped hearse cuts contoured coffin holes through Chicago,
through nestled neighbourhoods painted in different shades.

But the subway trains are always grey, will always be grey.

I come to like waking fully on coffee-substitute subway trains,
watching morning life pass in a blur through stained windowpanes,
seeing the ramshackle houses on north-side still standing somehow.
Shaking each time we pass them by, their winding wooden stairs
wobbling like arthritic limbs as the L-strain splinters aged railing.

I read books and I listen to music when riding on subway trains
to soundtrack and compliment rainbow shimmers on the pale knees
illuminated on the woman across for me, though she’s unaware
of my eyes, of the sun-glow on her thighs, a victim of subway seclusion
which numbs the minds of all those onboard and headed north

Wrapped up in [A->B] life on the Red Line.

I see the same people across three days on the same subway train
who are all oblivious to their fellow commuters, carried towards
their jobs, their homes, their local grocery store once more.
They share the rocky ride inside private bubbles, and I think:
“What if we talked? What if the commuters communcicated?”

Maybe they’re deterred by the occasional drunk on the subway train,
who spews golden ale gibberish about Chipotle and Christ again.
“The end of days are near, eat tacos” – the subway doesn’t give a shit.
Once I see a homeless man piss through the doors onto the platform
And note: ‘At least he waited until we stopped.’ A strange thought.
The smell of piss still lingers regardless though.

I think that we’re all desensitised and diminished on subway trains;
we’re all going where we need to be and entering the void inbetween.
My neat notes soon fade to grim-nothing scribbles entering the suburbs,
and my stare becomes vacant when looking out at the passing world.
My carriage becomes my perpetual prison, punctuated by coughs.

Through the haze comes the croak of the announcer on the subway train
reading like a robot the names of places I’ve never been, nor will ever go.
A lament to missed opportunities sealed off by metal barricade doors.
After a while my watching eyes turn downcast towards the floor,
waiting for eventual arrival, eventual dismissal, escape and release.

Release from the confines of the cage of the subway train.

Chicago, June 1016


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