The Friday Poem this week is for all the commuters who leave New Jersey every day and enter Manhattan via the Lincoln Tunnel. The poet, Deborah Garrison gives voice to the thoughts we sometimes entertain as passengers on a bus, in uncertain times, inhaling the fumes, the indigenous scent of New York Hudson crossings. “…please smile upon these good people who want to enter the city and work. Because work is good…”
Into the Lincoln Tunnel
The bus rolled into the Lincoln Tunnel,
and I was whispering a prayer
that it not be today, not today, please
no shenanigans, no blasts, no terrors,
just please the rocking, slightly nauseating
gray ride, stop and start, chug-a
in the dim fellowship of smaller cars,
bumper lights flickering hello and warning.
Yes, please smile upon these good
people who want to enter the city and work.
Because work is good, actually, and life is good,
despite everything, and I don’t mean to sound
spoiled, but please don’t think I don’t know
how grateful I should be
for what I do have —
I wonder whom I’m praying to.
Maybe Honest Abe himself,
craggy and splendid in his tall chair,
better than God to a kid;
Lincoln whose birthday I shared,
in whom I took secret pride: born, thus I was,
to be truthful, and love freedom.
Now with a silent collective sigh
steaming out into the broken winter sun,
up the ramp to greet buildings, blue brick
and brown stone and steel, candy-corn pylons
and curving guardrails massively bolted and men
in hard hats leaning on resting machines
with paper cups of coffee —
a cup of coffee, a modest thing to ask
dark, bitter, fresh
as an ordinary morning.
Deborah Garrison ‘The Second Child’ Random House, 2008