City of Beautiful Nonsense
It was night in the train yards, and all the ghosts had crept out of their cars. The nine–forty local, the uptown line, the husks of metronauts wandered under the arc lights. Impervious to the cold, each sang an identical song:
Slow magic, time sorcery –– equal parts alchemy and pathology. Do it twice a day, do it everyday. Ride the under–roads of the City Beautiful –– low roads, twice steel, reeking of sewage, lipstick and bubblegum.
Down the tiled halls, along the grease–stained platforms through miles of endless tunnels, captivated by a beauty larger than ideas. Impressions birthed the City. Memory served as the scaffolding. We, the architects and the masons, designed the City Beautiful stone by stone. When the mortar dried, the City had vanished –– carried away by time. Lost on familiar street corners, the bakery is gone. There’s a shoe–store there instead.
We sought security, and with its idea in mind each morning we kissed our loved ones goodbye. It worked like magic –– the dark, the steel, engine brakes and municipal mops –– all elements combined.
Slow magic, pathological. Go east and catch a glimpse of yourself going west on a different line.
Down the steps, into the dark where the rats danced with the bubblegum, and the smiles looked like grease. Often no place to stand, pushed along, straight on, for as long as we can. Dodging crisscrossing trajectories, awash amid vectors, bumping and colliding, the scent of perfume and the instant of music from a pair of bargain speakers. Up the stairs, down the passage, endless, endlessly on –– the City pulled us apart.
Time sorcery –– do it everyday, but watch how you go.
Kiss the wife and say goodbye, but remember to take your time. Transfer too often, and you’ll pass yourself going the other way. Red lights of the train shrinking down the dark of the tunnel –– shrinking down, down, down, with and without you.
So sing the metronauts, their lives lost somewhere on subway lines.
Justin Howe works for an architectural preservation company in New York City. His reviews have appeared in Strange Horizons and The Internet Review of Science Fiction, and you can read his fiction at Spacesuits & Sixguns. He belongs to the Homeless Moon.
Poem © 2008 Justin Howe. All other content copyright © 2008 ByrenLee Press
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