Poetry in Concrete and Cardboard

I lived in the D.C. metro area for four years. Getting a humanities degree and counseling teenage kids who bought handcuffs at the spy museum and then begged me to smuggle them through security at the Air and Space.

As I was clipping my way through the capitol building in high heels and a black business suit once, somebody stopped me and asked if I was a congressional intern. No actually. I was doing business with senators that day. But I was also about to rip off those shoes and run three blocks in the most unprofessional manner into the bowels of the Library of Congress to get a reader ID card before the bus left the city. I got it.

They say that the destiny of art majors and dreamers with ink-stained middle fingers is to live in a cardboard box and scribble poetry on metro tunnel walls. But why not? In a year or two, my politician peers will come out of their cush offices on the Hill and give an endowment for the arts at the National Gallery, and host a reception so I can come in off the street and eat the hour d’oeuvres. (I’ve got this all figured out.)

My commute no longer takes me into that awe-inspiring labyrinth under our nation’s most powerful city, crawling with individual successes, so exquisite in their standing-to-read-the-newspaper preoccupation, with clean breaks across the back of their dress shoes. Rocking and speeding like bullets to work and rushing right past Joshua Bell–playing his Stradivarius–with their iPods in their ears. But I still remember this: at the mouth of the metro tunnel at Dupont Circle are some words to The Wound Dresser by Walt Whitman. And they lifted my eyes above the mundane one day, and it was good.

So this is my mission: to be the wound dresser and metro-tunnel scribbler wherever I go. I’ll write this stuff on Polo Ralph Lauren cardboard coming off the truck at 5 a.m. in Podunk for the beauty-seekers who speak with southern vowels and wear bling over their $89.99 mesh “SPAIN” shirts. We’re all going somewhere. Every day we take that spidery track with green, blue, yellow, red legs further into our destiny. “Young and full of running / where has this taken me / just a great figure eight or a tiny infinity?” (that’s John Mayer’s genius). Every junction might have that Word that stops you in your tracks.

If you pay attention to the poetry on the tunnel walls.


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