Friday, March 15, 2013

Ridin' the Rails: a poem

I'm taking the Amtrak train
from Fullerton to Los Angeles,
staring out the windows
at the passing landscape,
the backs of industrial buildings,
rows and rows of warehouses
with graffiti, and on a wall it says,
"This is a canvas."

Passing a baseball field,
a woman and her son wave
at the train.  I wave back.
Piles of concrete, sand,
metal, dump trucks,
some kind of tubing,
palates, razor wire,
tanks filled with chemicals.
Things I am not meant to see,
as a consumer.

School buses,
business with names like
Electric Sales Unlimited,
Preferred Freezer Services,
The Dependable Company.
Low income housing,
the backs of houses,
a concrete river that is not a real river,
a field of dirt,
piles of discarded rail tracks and wood,
freight cars,
metal drums with strange symbols
filled with God knows what,

Twelve big rigs parked neatly in a  row,
power lines as far as the eye can see,
thirty-seven Smart & Final semi trailers,
acres of huge metal cranes 
for loading freight cars.

And in the distance now, 
the hazy LA skyline,
the downtown financial district.
The LA River,
with its huge swaths 
of white and brown paint,
covering what used to be
miles of graffiti,
street art, 
some by now-famous artists
who show their work 
in galleries and museums,
covered by a staccato of paint,
a multi-million dollar effort
to "clean up" the river bed.

Housing projects with numbered buildings,
bales of recyclable plastic.
And as we pull into Union Station,
an elderly couple
struggles with their baggage.

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