Taxi Poems


Tonight in the taxi I picked up a woman on Columbus Avenue going down to Bank Street. On the way she said she was going to pick up her drunk son and his friend and bring them back, but when we got there a group of about teenagers were carrying a boy, about 13, who was totally unconscious.

They laid him flat on the back seat and put a handkerchief under him and were holding a plastic bag under his mouth. All of them were speaking Russian.

The woman said she wanted me to take them to Roosevelt Hospital. At Tenth Avenue I instead convinced her to call an ambulance. I turned off the meter and waited with them for the ambulance and the police.

Would he die? Would he endure? I was a stranger, the one who could remember.

In Kafka’s final letter to Felice Bauer he said: “If we value our lives, let us abandon it all… I am forever fettered to myself, that’s what I am, and that’s what I must try to live with.”

Night on Earth (dir. by Jim Jarmusch, 1991)

Tonight in the taxi I wondered if I was Winona Ryder driving her cab across Los Angeles, would I have quit to become a movie star? Or shut the door and continued into the pulp-colored night?

Wanda Coleman said Los Angeles was a horizontal hell, and I believed her. In her letter she said appreciation is better than admiration because people are flawed often deeply, and youth, shining so brightly, conceals flaws in the sun of its unblemished adoration.

Then I thought of Corky, Winona Ryder, 18, in her yellow and blue wagon, chasing tips from stoned musicians or a talent agent. She smoked smoke after smoke as she pushed herself through.

We’re made of steel and rubber. We only say what is absolutely necessary and try to get many avenues of solid greens.

Lady with an Ermine

Today in the taxi I drove for about 11 hours. At one point, driving in Queens, some people put a bag and a container in the back and I heard some clucking or scratching. I said “What do you have back there?” It was a ferret.

Knowing nothing, and wanting to know less, about this mutilated ictis, I decided to press on, as the car maneuvered among intersections, handball courts, and bodegas.

I read later the males are called hobs and the females called jills. A group is known as a business, and this one was giving it. Let it be said that when navigating the vehicle, the driver ought not be distracted by jill, polecat, or anything busy in the backseat.


Today in the taxi I got a couple on Lafayette Street going to the Home Depot on West 23rd Street. The woman was about eight months pregnant. At some point the man starting sobbing.

“We're in debt every month! We're so close to the edge...I can't do this anymore!” The woman said: “I'll return it...I had no idea you were this upset...I've never seen you this upset before.” The man was hysterically crying and said: “We’re in debt every month! And it doesn't seem to bother don't care!”

When we were on Sixth Avenue the woman asked me to pull over and they got out.

Freud insisted that the wishes represented in dreams as fulfilled are not always present-day wishes.

He recalled the demons who are not dead in our sense of the word, but wake up to some sort of life as soon as they had tasted blood.

Ice Freezes Red

Tonight in the taxi I picked up two ‘dudes’ from a steakhouse on 44th near Fifth. They were going somewhere upstate, more than an hour away. They were drunk. They were constantly grabbing my phone, the wires, and touching me. I warned them several times not to touch me or harass me, but they kept doing it. Finally somewhere near New Rochelle I turned off at the next exit and forced them out.

Now I carry a screwdriver in the car. According to legend, Li Po died when, drunk, he fell out of a boat while trying to kiss the moon’s reflection.

A Latin proverb said to quarrel with a drunk is to wrong a man who is not even there. But another taxi driver told me it’s good to memorize where all the police precincts are for just this situation.

I saw them shrink in the mirror as I drove away.

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