I took the slow train today.
The one where you can almost read
The bulbous grafitti sprayed
On the crumbling concrete walls
And see the garbage thrown
Over the leaning chain link fence
Supposed to keep people
Away from the tracks.
Hubcaps, grocery store carts,
Tires, pieces of lumber,
Bulging black plastic bags, milk crates,
A metal No Parking sign.
The train looks down on black asphalt rooftops
Sunken in by time and weather,
A graveyard of rusted pick-up trucks and vans
Scavenged for parts years ago;
Past the sullen brick “garden” apartments
With names like Elysian Fields;
Windows patched with cardboard,
A line of cedar trees not quite brown;
By the broken wooden back stoops
Of tenements seemingly too derelict
For anyone to live there.
But they must.
A man waits patiently at the footpath
For a boy on crutches;
A pig-tailed girl skips down the dead end street
Like a disappearing bird.
Louise Coffin, a former high school English teacher in Atlanta, revels in her Swarthmore retirement.