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Poetry of Issue #8        Page 32

Taking the F train


long before I knew there was an F train, I heard it
rumbling through our three-room apartment
the moment my father got home from work.
Every night he took it to the end of the line,
my mother silently beside him as it made
local stops at every grievance he had
starting with a country whose promises
teased him out of Russia into one failed
business venture after another, managers
whose voices whipped down so fast--
he’d seen horses treated better--
the cost of each complaint carefully
weighed, how much to support a wife
and two kids----
the cost of being alive: last stop.

In the morning he got up and
took the BMT to work. Nobody
in those old Brooklyn neighborhoods
could afford to take the F train during the day.
Poor, working class, immigrants living
rent controlled lives someone else owned.


The first F train I was on ran silently
along the same line as my father’s;
I didn’t know it when I said
I’d never, packed my bags and moved
near the only subway close by

passed my own give ‘em hell stops
on those unmapped stations between
East Broadway & Delancey, 2nd Avenue.
& Broadway-Lafayette, the train crawling along
except when it didn’t: the conductor
announces signal problems: I’m stuck
telling someone off over & over till


the train starts to move again,
I get to my stop, and begin my, that’s ok
to those when it isn’t
the 9—5 every day all day, that’s ok, till
I’m back on the F train, now

a scared teenager no longer ignoring
a man’s hand beneath me in a movie theatre
a co-worker’s unwanted hand
someone’s watch it finger pointed at me
I point away, those, it’s for your own good
words, I ignore, my father’s,
you just can’t do whatever you like in life
I throw back at him


and keep going on and off
the same F train that jerks me around
every weekend, sometimes with a big D, E or
M on it to throw me off, or doesn’t come at all
forcing me to take an A to the J
find where it’s rerouted by whatever
circuitous path, take it and that’s
when everything becomes NOT OK and


I’m riding past where my father’s train stopped;
to get where I want to go, I don’t get off
and get there just in time every time

“Thank God for the F Train*”

*By Ben Sidran
(From the album, Picture Him Happy, released
Jan. 17, 2017)

  Linda Lerner