These poems touch on the theme of Freedom. "The Circus Lion" was originally published on Visual-Verse, as a response to their monthly prompt. Eventually the poem morphed into a different kind of poem, which bears a resemblance (though not the art) of a poem by David Ignatow called "The Zoo Lion." It's hard to find Ignatow's online, but it's a terrific poem that's worth tracking down. "Brooklyn Bound" was inspired by a poem written by my friend and fine poet, Julie Standig. Julie encountered (and wrote about) her Stanley Kowalski on a bus, rather than a train. Please note that "making a flag" is a time-honored street gymnastics move which I saw performed once or twice on the streets of Queens in my youth. Never seen it done on a subway train, but then what's heaven for?
The Circus Lion
after David Ignatow
Closed-mouthed, and what of it, especially on a week day?
What’s to be gained, the discomfort that comes from baring my teeth
or letting a tongue hang wildly out, which makes the locals laugh
and the less familiar turn their heads in utter disgust,
the saliva and what I’ve been chewing falling this way and that?
There’s never much to say that can’t be imagined as worse.
For instance, it’s hardly Tuesday already,
the weekend, thank God, both distant memory and faraway fear
when, in compliance with my contract,
I’ll emit at least one barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world,
the children called to attention, their grownups flinch
but hardly put in mind of what’s real anxiety—
wandering town to town, going this way and that in a cage
that rocks side-to-side on the rails, or stops and starts on the highway.
Frankly, it’s a kind of freedom having come from some place
and finally arriving at another. Some might call it settling—
and others still unsettling—true, this a modest place,
but I call it home.
first appeared in Visual-Verse
after Julie Standig
Buff and bored, the long Latino Stanley Kowalski of the “F”
leans back in the hard seat as if he’s in a hammock,
his legs stretched halfway across the car, and exclaims
what we might never otherwise suspect: This is the life!
Like a bowling ball, his well-pleased feet displace
the pins of Going-to-Business Barbie, complete with attaché,
who’d been holding the center bar in the crook of her arm
and managing still to waltz with Marie Claire.
She escapes with some high stepping and makes for the guillotine door
as we follow with envious eyes, till she arrives,
winded but still exceedingly well put-together, in the car behind.
The rest of us, too timid to plan such escape, clear more space,
relieved to be omitted from Stanley’s impressive reach,
if not his joie de vivre riding the F,
as we bury ourselves in our electronic devices,
with those imagined messages from the world of the surface
we can’t know for sure we’ll ever emerge to receive.
The elderly Spanish woman on the other side
crosses herself with a mouthed Dios mío,
already retreated into The Bible she carries for such close calls,
maybe Matthew 5:38 about offering your coat to the stranger,
or the one from Ezekiel about the Lord exacting vengeance.
Now the young man heads for the abandoned pole at center
and lifts himself parallel to the ground
in what’s known on the street as “the flag”
and holds the position for a full count of three.
Impressed, but refusing to salute, I glance at la doña
for the sake of the camaraderie we now should share,
to which she shrugs, which indicates,
though I might be from out-of-town,
that down here, this is the life.
first appeared in In Transit, Border Line Press
© 2017 Alan Walowitz
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