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Michael Ruby reads Subway Poems

I heard Michael Ruby read at Zinc Bar earlier this year and was very taken by his Subway Poems, which he has been writing on his way to and from work over the years. They have an easy feel to them, accessible, and yet there is some depth, or perhaps like T.S. Eliot once said, they “Dip, but not too deep,” because what is there is there quickly, thoughts in transit caught in little gems of time that Michael writes down, before his stop, a condensing of vision, ah, there it is: what he is thinking with no time to spare except to see what is there. When time, as well as the poet, does the editing, it’s an interesting and productive way to write, little bits of daily insight that add up in the coming and the going. Subway poems, give them a listen and enjoy.


Every so often,
waiting for the subway,
I see someone
who died many years ago.


Some days, I step into the train
and see a number of beautiful people
distributed throughout the car.
Who ever said the world’s an ugly place?
It’s not an ugly place.
The world might be a brutal place,
but it isn’t an ugly place.


If you think it’s a G,
it’s a G.

If you think it’s an F,
it might be a G,
because hope can cloud your vision.

But if you think it’s a G,
it’s a G.


A woman exits the train as I enter.
Through the train window,
I watch her walk on the platform.
This is a woman and a man
moving in different directions.
It happens, literally,
billions of times an hour,
and our minds are trained
to gloss over it,
to gloss over it all the time.
That’s probably a good idea.
It’s one of those thoughts—
like listening to every sound—
that can drive you insane,
unless you’re Piet Mondrian.


Today, for some reason, I prefer
the people on the other platform,
walking toward the exits
as their train leaves the station.
Today, for some reason, I prefer
the people on the other side.


Each day now,
as I round the corner
onto 7th Ave.,
the sun shines
its giant flashlight
in my eyes,
like an interrogator
in a bare room
in a ’40s cop movie.
“You know
what I’m talking about,
the sun says
in a voice
“dripping with scorn.”


We are living
in the absolute
golden age
of footwear.
If I run my eye
along the floor
of the subway car,
I can see that
every person wears
a different style
of shoes or sneakers.
I wonder how
the shoe companies
can make money
so many different
styles of shoes—
a different style
for every person
in the world.


Two trains
on parallel tracks
leave the station
at the same time—
it can’t last!


People glimpsed
at the southeast corner
of Smith St.
and 3rd St.
as the F train
returns underground:
a man, a child.
People stripped
of detail,
Everyman, Everychild,
a few seconds
in the allegory.

To hear Michael Ruby reading from his new book, The Mouth of the Bay, you can check him out here:


One Comment

  1. Larry Delinger

    I love these poems, Don. Thanks.

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