By Joseph Hesch
Emerging from the train into the dimness,
I hewed salmon-like to the school
of commuters and day-trippers
crossing the platform and entering
the yellow-tiled tunnel climbing
to the harsh Manhattan sunlight.
As I turned a corner near a flight of stairs,
the crowd slowed, but didn’t stop,
eddying at the small wallside cubby.
A fever dream of a man stood within,
covered in shredded gray –
rags, beard, and life –
as everyone but I erased him
from their narrow realities
and passed him by.
He was huffing into and out of
a harmonica in one hand and
grasping an unloved piece of himself
with the other.
“How can they not care about this?”
I thought. “How can someone fall
like this and not care about himself?”
Rejoining the swirling mass,
I climbed into the whirring city.
Years later, I stood in the dreamless
dark hallway of my life, no visible light
or means of exit in sight,
nor any care to find them.
I had turned into my own sad and
ragged pile of gray,
shouting at the passing callous world
or hiding from its loveless minion.
But you stopped for me, drawn to this pen
and this notebook, upon which I now draw
maps of escape routes from this life
to your light. We haven't touched yet,
but I have a lot of ink in this well of hope,
lots of pages in my journal of possibilities.
This poem emerged from a memory I recently dredged up of a trip I made to Manhattan more than 25 years ago. There was the train to Grand Central Station, there was a tunnel of yellow tile full of surging humanity, and there was a man in shredded rags "performing" for no one but himself. Such memories sneak up on me now that I'm more mindful of my feelings and impressions and happen to keep a log of this new journey. "This Way Out" is just the latest leg of that journey. If you would like to read more such trips, feel free to sail around the blog. And if you're looking more poetic flights of fancy and reality, sail on over to dVerse Poets Pub for Open Link Night. My friend Joy "Hedgewitch" Jones is skipper there tonight.