Nowhere in the U.S. does public transit have as much of a flavor and as much of a life of its own as in NYC! The sights - sometimes heartening, sometimes heart-rending, the sounds - sometimes sweet and enthralling, often times deafening, and the smells... oh the smells! Rarely are those anything but nauseating! :)
Amidst all this are the people... the quintessential New Yorkers - People who refuse to make eye-contact, lest you are one of those freaks who lurks in Central Park at night, are crushed up against others who need but the smallest of excuses to lapse into an animated discussion about that book you are reading!
Faced with such contradictions, it would be hard to imagine a curious person like me doing anything but people-watching... Alas, this breed of humans doesn't take too kindly to being stared at! Which kinda limits my options...hehe. So often times, I pick my poison - between catching up on my reading and listening to the latest podcasts, I usually have my 50 minute commute pretty well covered! :) But sometimes I just don't feel like doing either, and it is then that I keep myself busy by intently reading the subway signs and advertisements!
Anyway, recently I was pleasantly surprised to see the following lines from W.H.Auden's "O Tell Me the Truth About Love" posted in one of the subway cars:
When it comes, will it come without warning
Just as I'm picking my nose,
Will it knock on my door in the morning
Or tread in the bus on my toes,
Will it come like a change in the weather,
Will its greeting be courteous or bluff,
Will it alter my life altogether?
O tell me the truth about love.
You can find the full poem here.
Now I am not a big fan of Auden's work, but I must admit that I have always liked this one quite a bit. So I asked around... and realized that this was a part of the MTA's "Poetry in Motion" campaign, a 15-year old partnership between the MTA and the Poetry Society of America (PSA). Starting in 1992 with "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" by Walt Whitman, "Hope is the Thing with Feathers" by Emily Dickinson, "When You Are Old" by William Butler Yeats, and "Let There Be New Flowering" by Lucille Clifton, each year the MTA and the PSA jointly select poems that are displayed in subway cars and buses either in full or as excerpts! You can find some of the past poems here. What a brilliant idea! Nothing like a smart verse or two to brighten up one's commute - for once, I think, a bureaucratic policy seems to be doing more good than harm! :)