1. I was vaguely reading all of the signs in the car – because words are like that, demanding to be read, sometimes begging, sometimes pleading – when I saw the message that surprised me with its unexpected positive directive adjacent to the negative one: Do Hold Each Other/Do Not Lean On The Doors.
2. I didn’t notice the message at first. I was just reading the words.
3. There was a poem. I noticed it because there was a graphic of mosaic in pastels. It looked like an ad. It wasn’t an ad. Maybe it was an ad, but who has ever seen an ad for W.S. Merwin? It would be an ad for language, for art, for beauty:
Being too warm the old lady said to me/ is better than being too cold i think now/ in between is the best. . . .
And my sight line was blocked as people got on the train and stood and held not on to each other but onto the metal poles built into the car for that purpose – so we can avoid holding on to each other.
4. No one heeds the admonishment not to lean on the doors either.
5. I want to ask the woman with the backpack to move so I can finish transcribing the poem. She has a cotton blouse on that’s fitted, like menswear but not menswear.
6. My stop came and I got off the train and walked away from the poem, my transcription unfinished. I know I can find it easily on the internet but I don’t want to do it like that, cut and paste it here. 25 years ago when I was in college I would have gone to the library and found W.S. Merwin’s poems somewhere in the stacks after finding the volumes listed in the card catalogue and I would have taken his books off the shelf and sat down in the aisle and started to look through them, each table of contents, until I found the poem. I would have gone to that page and read it again. But then the context would not be an ad for Culture in a subway car, but instead a book in my lap in the quiet aisle of a library on campus. And I would have read the other poems flanking the Summer poem and begun to get a sense of the poem’s surroundings, the logic that put that poem in that place, in that book, in that life. I would have read a bit in the other books, the shorter poems. Maybe I would have borrowed one or two volumes and read them later and maybe I would have felt some emotion, evoked by his words like I felt on the train this morning when I read the poem about summer and something about the trees breathing, and was suddenly surrounded by a memory of long days in summer when I was a child, when the cicadas hissed in the trees and warm wind blew in through open windows at night so we couldn’t sleep for the heat.