Commuting: Jointly and Collectively Exhaustive

A poem about the positive and negative emotions in commuting and relating to fellow commuters.

Image Credit: 
© Chris Martin / Used With Permission

A familiar cluster of similar souls,
Standing, waiting, near the edge,
Unspoken rules and habits: coffee, foot shuffle into position,
I’m here, you’re there, let’s stay like that?
A low-key stand-off.
The train wheezes and squeals, stopping,
The alarm sounds, doors open, the train exhales,
And with the next breath invites us,
Like yesterday and tomorrow,
To step over the edge,
I watch this, everyday, narrating my version,
Internal dialogue about: us, commuters,
In competition for a precious seat,
Respite in a slim, polyester oasis, not
Buffeted, touched or squeezed like the standing,
And so everyday near the edge, the preparation
To race to win that seat, win the day, often
I choose not to race, preferring manners:
Ladies first, after you, no please I insist, I don’t mind standing,
But I do mind you—pushing in—queue jumper!
Feel my wrath from burning eyes, yes you!
What makes you special?
My righteous, silent, indignation,
A reward for my refined position, clearly?
Tonight I’m tired, I’m late, I’m near the edge now,
Not patient or well mannered, only positioned,
To race, for the seat, it’s mine, I deserve it!
And repeat: another day of
Unspoken rules and habits: coffee, foot shuffle and position,
Commuters near the edge
Breathe slowly, step back from the edge.

James is a pseudonym for a local writer who, after a long hiatus, is exploring poetry again.

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