Writing

Four Poems

Four of my poems were recently published on the website Albany Poets. And for my contribution to National Poetry Month, I have posted the poems here, along with some relevant images.

Centro Bus

Centro Bus

Taking the Bus

The blind man in the blue striped shirt
stands in front of the bus stop,
clutching a red and white
walking stick in his right hand.
He smiles as the bus’s tires roll to a stop
and the door swings open with a whooshing sound.
He climbs inside and takes a seat,
just another passenger in another vehicle
crawling along the congested thoroughfare
on this Wednesday morning commute.

Fall Trees

Fall Trees

Falling Leaf

The golden maple leaf
fell to the ground
in front of my feet,
making a slapping sound.
It greeted me
on this frosty November morning,
reminding me that one day
I too will lie on the ground,
and others will pass by
without stopping
or looking down.

Florida box turtle. Photo by Jonathan Zander (Digon3).

Florida box turtle. Photo by Jonathan Zander (Digon3).

Hard Shell

What goes through the mind of a turtle
When it’s sprawled on its back and can’t roll over?
Does it panic as its legs squirm in the air?
Does it stick out its tongue and try to scream for help?
Does it curse its maker as it writhes on the asphalt,
With the sun scorching its belly?
How long does it wait before giving up and accepting fate?

No. This turtle does not think.
It lacks the capacity to reason.
Instincts fire as it battles to survive:
“Get off your shell. Roll over. On your feet.”
It rocks from side to side as it labors to turn over.
It strains, twists and kicks … but fails.

And no one will intervene—
There’s no Tom Sawyer kid with a hickory stick,
Skipping along and flipping the turtle over.
No semi truck rumbles down the road,
Stirring up a blast of air and setting the turtle upright.

It struggles alone, refusing to quit
As it attempts to conquer physics.
The turtle keeps working
Until the sun desiccates its flesh
And it releases a final breath—
A low croak that goes unheard along the deserted road.
The turtle is gone and no one witnessed the fight.

Woman walking along Genesee Street in Syracuse, New York. I snapped this photo a few years ago while standing on the front porch of my apartment building, while testing out my new Canon DSLR.

Woman walking along Genesee Street in Syracuse, New York. I snapped this photo a few years ago while standing on the front porch of my apartment building, while testing out my new DSLR.

Stooped

An old woman hunched over,
looking down at the sidewalk,
adjusting her knit hat.
She limps forward,
shuffling along,
riddled with pain.
Her face reveals
the hurt she endures.
She receives no aid,
no intercession from human or heaven.
I pass her on the sidewalk,
and I say a quick prayer
that her suffering wanes.
It may not do any good,
but I send the thought aloft
and hope someone is listening.
The woman crosses the street
and fades out of sight.
I then hear an inner voice say,
“You were there,
you could have helped her.”

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Writing

Man At Work

Here’s a reminder that grace and honor can be found in just about any setting where working men and women toil. This point was illuminated recently while I waited for a Buffalo-bound bus at the Regional Transportation Center in Syracuse.

I was scheduled to take Amtrak’s westbound Lake Shore Limited, as I was heading to Toledo, Ohio, to spend a week with my sister and her family. But a freight train derailment in Montgomery County, N.Y., forced a service disruption between Albany and Buffalo, so Amtrak passengers had to be bused between the locations.

While I sat inside the station I noticed a custodian working his shift. His diligence caught my attention. He was likely in his mid to late 30s with short brownish-blond hair and a goatee. He wore a light blue golf shirt, white sweatpants with navy blue trim on the side, white sneakers and latex gloves.

His face was red and moist from his labor. He was pushing a yellow cart loaded with supplies and kept moving between the garbage cans inside the station, emptying the trash and replacing the plastic bags. He wasted no movement and made no delay in going between the cans; it was clear he wasn’t clock-watching, trying to stall while waiting for his shift to end. He was there to do work and he followed through with alacrity on every task.

Then I saw him again in the men’s room. He was emptying the trash and wiping down the urinals, stalls and sinks.

After the majority of passengers boarded the Greyhound bus that would take us to Buffalo, the driver, a blond-haired man in his 50s with a mustache, stood in front of the terminal talking to some Amtrak employees and a Border Patrol agent. The driver and Amtrak workers checked the tickets of latecomers and loaded the oversized luggage into the baggage compartment in the bottom of the bus.

As I looked out my window, facing the terminal, I saw the janitor working outside. And while the driver and Amtrak workers stood chatting, the custodian emptied the exterior trash cans and recycle bins. He pulled up the full garbage bags, tied them tightly and stacked them on top of his cart; then he would take clean plastic bags, snap them open and insert them into the cans.

He did this a number of times, going from can to can and never saying a word to anyone. He blended into the background of people smoking outside and the employees talking at the curb.

I thought about the janitor’s life. He has a thankless job that requires tedious physical effort and the touching of dirty paper towels and leftover food. I can’t imagine he makes more than 10 or 12 dollars an hour, and I wonder if he has a family to support. I bet he wants a higher-paying job, maybe something that doesn’t require manual labor.

And on this Saturday night it was late, around 9:30 p.m. He looked tired, but that did not slow him down.

Once all of the trash was piled high on his cart, he pushed it inside the station, going through the automatic doors at the front entrance, and most likely wheeled the cart to a Dumpster outside, at the back of the station.

Soon he would punch out and head home. Maybe he would have a late meal and catch some sports highlights on ESPN.

I admired this man for his effort when no one was paying attention to him. I believe our nation’s productivity could increase substantially if we all worked as hard as the janitor.

I’m sure he does not love his job. But it’s clear he takes pride in it. And honest labor in any capacity deserves recognition.

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