Under The East River
What would you give to ride again
to Flatbush Avenue in the front subway car
wondering about the rails, why they meet
in the distance of the dark tunnel?
to climb the stairs up to the ozone-scented morning
holding your schoolbooks tight against your blue-sweatered
and stride under the arch of Erasmus Hall High School
where Desiderius, the bronzed Dutch scholar stands
with his tome eternally open to the same two pages
to throw a Lincoln penny into his book for luck
in passing all your tests, and you do
to have your luck follow you out into the copper afternoon
and to never doubt it will be with you forever?
What will you do when your luck slips clinking onto the
somewhere between Times Square and Coney Island
and you ride to and fro under the East River
while your reflection watches you from the soot-smeared
you know now you will never get off at the right stop
you will fail all your tests year after year
the rails will never meet.
What would you give to ride to Herald Square and see luck
wearing a faded Dodgers cap and his back-pack of tricks?
when he moves to the strap-hanger next to yours
when he sways with you
will you dare look straight into his cobalt eyes
and invite him to come home in the lowering afternoon
to lie with you, to love each other’s bones
until they meet in the tunnel of light?
– Ruth Kramer Baden
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