Minor Derailment 

Again I submitted a poem for a literary journal that publishes one poem every Sunday that responds to something from the week’s news. (And again,  my poem was not chosen.) Perhaps because I wrote in response to a small, local story of a minor train derailment by Amtrak on Friday in Penn Station NY, the news does not have a wide enough net. Perhaps there were too many other entries that surpassed mine.  Perhaps this is not that good.  But the idea lodged itself in my head. It must come out. The news kept saying how no one was hurt, but I started thinking about the butterfly effect and how there is more than one way to be hurt.
Minor Derailment 
It was a minor derailment

At slow speed.

No one was hurt.

And yet,

And yet,

Trains were cancelled,

Delayed, and crowded.

So the Mom rushing home early

From a business trip to DC

Misses her daughter’s basketball game.

But no one was hurt.

And the Dad who promised

He’d be there,

For sure this time,

For his son’s school play,

(He has the lead)

Won’t make it in time.

But no one was hurt.

And the sweetheart with a ring

But a dead phone battery

Is over an hour late for their reservation

And she’s gone home, crying.

But no one was hurt.

The pushing and shoving on

The overcrowded trains,

Everyone wanting to get home,

No one wanting to give an inch,

Anger, frustration,

And who knows what else,

Especially later as some commuters

Have over-enjoyed happy hour 

To kill the time

Lessening their inhibitions

And loosening their tongues.

But no one was hurt.

The broken dates,

The missed appointments,

The misunderstandings,

The fatigue,

The tempers flaring.

One train slips off the track

At minimal speeds

Not even completely out of the station

And sideswipes another.

The grinding of metal!

The jostling and jarring!

And, thank God!

No one on board is injured.

But that does not mean

No one was hurt.

A Rose Refurbished 

A couple of Fridays ago, I had some time on my hands,  so I went to the newly refurbished Rose Reading Room at the New York Public Library. Always a beautiful space, it is now brighter and cleaner as well. It is certainly conducive to creativity and work.  And let’s admit it,  the two go hand in hand.  But surrounded by beauty and knowledge,  it is easier to engage in the search for truth.  (Support your local libraries, museums, and cultural institutions, my friends.  Tell your Congressmen to support the arts,  the NEH and the NEA.)

As I looked around the majestic room, I saw people from all walks of life immersed in all sorts of reading/writing activities: in print, online, by hand, by machine, researching,  creating, in English,  in Chinese, Spanish, French, etc. And others came in to appreciate the art and architecture, and others just to sit for a minute. It is a beautiful space that offers so much to so many.  I feel lucky to have experienced it today. And in a true New York moment,  I ran into people I know who had just stopped in to see the room!

One of the things I love about libraries is the access to the creativity of generations. Thousands, millions really, have left a little part of themselves for us to read and know. They inform, challenge, and inspire. But the Rose Reading Room of the NYPL does even more–through the beautiful architecture of the building, the space itself inspires. It is a place I love, yet definitely do not get to enough.

Musing on a topic? Stuck on a scene? Look up to the newly renovated ceiling and drift among the clouds or trace with your eyes the ornate designs. Soon, new ideas and connections will spring to mind, and your creativity will flow freely. Grab a seat and begin. I’ll see you there!


Starbucks Surrealism

Would you believe this if you read it in a story or novel? Probably not. It’s too ridiculous. And too long. That’s part of what makes it ridiculous. It was a bit surreal even when it was happening. And yet, it did happen.

Starbucks exchange:

Me: Do you have pour over decaf?

Starbucks guy: Do we have pour over?

Starbucks girl: Decaf? Yeah,  we can do pour over decaf.

Me: OK. I’ll have a grande pour over decaf.

Starbucks guy: That’ll be $2.67.

(Hand over money. )

Starbucks guy: How do I do this?

Starbucks girl: Do what?

Starbucks guy: Pour over decaf

Starbucks girl (to me): You want Americano?

Me: No, a pour  decaf

Other Starbucks guy: Well, an Americano would be faster and we can do that decaf, that’s why she’s asking.  But okay.

(Much fumbling with equipment that looks like the are making a milkshake; they finally find the pour over cone, and then a second one, and take out a big canister of coffee grounds. Many minutes pass by. Did I mention that this was all happening in Penn Station while I waited for a train?)

Starbucks girl: We can’t do a pour over right now. We don’t have the….(makes a gesture like patting  something) …the things  (filters, folks, the barista can’t think of the word filters). We can do an Americano.

Me: Well, then I guess I’ll have an Americano.


But, wait, there’s more!

Starbucks girl: It’ll be down the second end there.

What is a second end? I’m not sure, but I head to the end of the counter. I still don’t know where the “first end” was. I stand and wait. Finally, the girl there looks up.

Other Starbucks girl (at the second end): Did you do a mobile order?

Me: Excuse me?

Other Starbucks girl: Mobile order?

Me: No

Now the first Starbucks girls comes down to the “second end.”

Starbucks girl: No.

Other Starbucks girl: Where’s the order?

Starbucks girl: She wanted a pour over, but we can’t do it. Do an Americano.


I almost missed my train, but I will say that when I got home and added a little Amaretto, the Americano wasn’t half bad.

How would you portray this in fiction to make it believeable?