The Day-to-Day Limited

Walt Whitman. Daguerreotype

Walt Whitman. Daguerreotype (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The twenty-somethings asked me,
“These bills, how did we earn them…when?
Where has the time gone?”
Call me in twenty years, youngsters,
should I survive that long to accept your call.
You’ll have earned a few of those answers then.
Now, though, your lives move too fast,
like trains hurtling past one another
on tracks an arm’s length apart.

You know those are windows across from you,
but there’s no way you can recognize anyone
sitting there, maybe sucking on a Red Bull,
wishing he or she was still in bed
bumped up against–or bumping up against–
that warm form in the portside sheets.
You just see a whoosh of silver-gray
flashing its own sheets of strobe-light
what-ifs and maybes. And you try not to look
too hard at it because it just ends up
hurting your eyes and sometimes your heart.

So you keep your head down,
keep trundling forward,
occasionally gasping up for a breath
and a look-see at where you are.
At your age, it’s hardly ever
to see where you’re going.
If you’re lucky, someday
somebody will tap you on the shoulder
and tell you it’s okay to step off.
You’ve reached “there.”
Problem is, is this going to be the “there”
you were expecting when you boarded?

When they left me, I pulled out my “Leaves,”
and thought: Cloud-whiskered Walt,
make me feel that young and special again,
you blessed old dreamer you.
I need your wisdom and winsome words
more than ever. We all do. Lift me
from this dark platform.
That’s the motion I wish to feel
in my body electric.
I have my ticket and I’m listening
for your robust
“All aboard!”

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24 thoughts on “The Day-to-Day Limited

  1. I work with a 20 year-old guy. A couple of days ago he popped open a can, said, "Look out everybody, I'm drinkin' a Red Bull," and made some reference to narwhales. I replied with a fun fact about narwhales and he admitted he thought they were mythological creatures. I assured him they were real. He whipped out his phone and looked up photos of narwhales in the wild, stared and said, "Wow!" We live in a strange world.I love Walt, and the way your poem ends. There's a way to be forever young, but we have to be vigilant, keep our eyes open.

  2. my son is 19 and my daughter 20 – so i know what you're talking about…think we can learn from each other…good write joe..and glad to be on a team with you…cheers to the opening celebrations…think we also have red bull at the pub…smiles

  3. I felt these words very keenly and the weight of them was more than mere poetry – I need your wisdom and winsome words more than ever. We all do. Lift me from this dark platform. It sings to the Human Condition. Thanks for that JoeGood days ahead I feel, good getting to know you

  4. This is a great write Joe, and it touched my heart. How time flies, it seems only yesterday….How I wish I could go back to that twenty something & tell her what I know now…I love how this poem ends…brilliant.

  5. I live not far from a railroad track and have auditory cues while I read this. Although I haven't ridden a train since I lived in France, I felt like I was on it early in your narrative. Great metaphor and sensory detail, Joe.

  6. 'You just see a whoosh of silver-gray flashing its own sheets of strobe-light what-ifs and maybes. And you try not to look too hard at it because it just ends up hurting your eyes and sometimes your heart.'A very sage piece, with a lot of food for thought. I have a 25 year old son, and hope he makes it to the "there" he's expecting. So much we couldn't see at that age. Wonderfully written piece.

  7. I have a 15 yr old, she has always been super hyper active. She never walks anywhere even in the house she runs and she lives each day that way, always in such a rush to grow up. And when she does one thing she wants to do, she already has another lined up and waiting. I tell her, slow down, enjoy being a child because once you become an adult then, your responsilities all change and you carry them. But, the youth today all seem to want to bypass their teens and become adults at 14. I can sense the underlying disappointment here as if you feel you've wasted your time trying to teach them because they're not listening.It's a lovely piece of writing however you were feeling and, as to your last piece, I'm certain your father watches you and feels nothing but pride in his sons works. Thank you for visiting me and the lovely comment, too.

  8. Sometimes I try to remember the full length and breadth of being young, instead of just the time capsuled items of it I hang on to, but it's like that train of yours, speeding by me, more than I can grasp, so I guess it's a two way track. Love the Whitman shout out. Need to dust off my copy and walk with him again. A solid, substantive piece you wrote here, Joseph.

  9. Your pieces always have such substance, and I appreciate that. I especially liked your ending. Oh, I shudder when I think back at how I thought I knew so much in my twenties. Glad to have realized I still have much, much, much to learn.

  10. I never thought much in my youth just enjoyed it – moved with and flowed..never thought of gray hair – it was hard to fathom then and it is hard to fathom even now…so I pretend I am 30 something…nice write..glad you are a part of this new and wonderful project…bkm

  11. Whitman lifted me up out of the Broadsides of the folkmusic era to real poetry. I read the entire volume I had of Leaves of Grass without sleeping. I was twenty. I didn't read fast then or now when reading poetry. I was pregnant and needed sleep but his words burned into my subconscious. I felt I'd never heard or read poetry before even though I'd read it since grade school. I went to England when my husband died. I'd waited my entire life to do it. I bought train tickets for 7 weeks, could go anywhere anytime in seven weeks. I saw pretty much the main areas of England, Cornwall, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland and made it across the channel by water then for five days in Paris. I sat by the window and tried to memorize every face that crossed on passing trains and those, too, in the carriages I rode on. I heard stories there as well. I learned to correctly pronounce Tintagel and Dun Laoghaire. If I never do go anywhere else, or read any other poetry these two events almost completely define me as a poet.Amazing how you braided the strands of my life into your poem!

  12. Joe…MY GOD! How could you ever doubt what it is you do with these wisdom filled words you weave! I am so very sorry I am late to the party. My grandfather passed on Sunday, so it's been a whirlwind couple of days. He was an original, danced to his own drum, and I have been in a state of mind lately that fits perfectly with this piece. All the time I missed with him, because I was chasing those stars, jumping on trains with no thought to final destination, and wondering if they aren't now flying too fast for me to jump off! Thank you Joe…for giving me the permission I need to jump…and maybe even cry too! Seriously, thank you…

  13. I read somewhere that at fifteen kids think their parents know nothing and at twenty they can't believe how much their parents have learnt in five years. This is wise and wonderful and written from an informed perspective.Man, I've met some interesting, talented people in this pub.

  14. Joe, this is absolutely delightful! From youth to Whitman….you have covered quite a trail.Funny, two days ago I sat down with Leaves and started to read. I put it down for other tasks, but am going to pick it up again. You gave my conscience a nudge here.Wonderful, broad, expressive and oh so real poem! Greatly enjoyed.Lady Nyo

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