Please note that the poems and essays on this site are copyright and may not be reproduced without the author's permission.


Monday, 20 May 2013

Commuting


.

Bus stop sign near Portola School in El Cerrito: photo by efo, 3 July 2006


The humiliation of being
constantly observed
by a hostile or derisive eye
is certainly no joke
but neither is
not being able to find
your shoes


The rich buy
themselves out of it

The bus
plunges through the rain
a full load
of long faces
stares out the window
into the historical ontology
of itself


 
TC: Commuting, from Disordered Ideas, 1987




East Oakland: photo by efo, 1 January 2013

8 comments:

Wooden Boy said...

a full load
of long faces
stares out the window
into the historical ontology
of itself

There are routes where the base and superstructure are laid out very clearly. No matter how work weary the gaze, it has to burn itself onto the retina.

Is there a ghost of a reflection there too: an outline to see through?

What would happen when those long face stares turn to each other?

The rich buy
themselves out of it.

A perfect line break - the bought self.

Efo's photos of Oakland are always a pleasure to see.



Marie W said...

I like the fact that this poem is part of a collection entitled Disordered Ideas. This fits the commuting world so well. Trains of thoughts in the morning, in the evening, in the morning, in the... Thoughts carried to work and back, in random order inside the bus.
but neither is
not being able to find
your shoes
(how can one not smile at this? A smile that would certainly catch the attention of the hostile or derisive eye in the bus. Because there usually aren't any. And maybe rightly so, I don't know). I like the two black and white photos too, the first one in particular (maybe I have a Holga bias, oh noo).
I think everyone knows what commuting looks like in Japan, but I couldn't resist putting up the link.

TC said...

Many thanks, WB and Marie. It's clear this particular disordered idea has resonance in a larger community of the potentially disorderly. Yes, what's seen in that rain-streaked night bus-window and what may be seen through it are two different classes of thing... merging into one thing.

Since the time this was writ, the stares of the riders have been redirected, to great extent. Now there is a foolproof stare-absorber, that little plastic slab with lights, smartphone or whatever you call it. Last time I was on bus, a couple beside me, each with their own small black plastic stare-absorbing slab. With the disjointed neck (accident aftermath), I have trouble turning my head, but curiosity overcame me (famous last words), and out of the corner of the one eye that still works, I could make out that each slab had a video, apparently "homemade" footage (is footage still a word, now with digital?) of heads and bodies bobbing up and down at odd angles, a sort of swirling unfocused vertigo, maybe the memento of a party, or perhaps merely random voyeurism of the contemporary safe-distance sort. In any case, neither of these two showed the slightest interest in one another. Could their conversation, however blank and vapid, have possibly been more blank and vapid than the videos on those slabs? Is it the vertigo that compels?

Base and superstructure... is the new electronic "intelligence" a kind of world-mire, a societal quicksand?

These particular riders were atypical, it must be said. More common on the late night bus is a type of citizen who can't afford a smartphone.

(Duh... does not owning a smartphone mean you're dumb? One smartphone evangelist explained that theory to me a while back... as he changed t-shirts outside the vehicle in which he lives.)

That Japanese commuting situation, OMG. Particularly impressive, we thought, was the arrival of a squadron of official, uniformed pushers, to push the unofficial pushers, in a sort of recursive chain of well-organized pushiness. If that train contained a melted reactor-core, would it really matter to any of the pushers, up against the prevailing compulsion to push one's way aboard?

I love efo's pictures, they are the only photos I've ever seen that show this particular patch of entropic disorder disguised as civilization exactly as it is.

And indeed, though the tone and content differ, I can also see similarities between efo's work and Marie's. The singularity. These are two photographers whose vision I would never be tempted to mistake for anyone else's. And what a relief that is, to feel that not everything left to us must be generic, interchangeable, and one-size-fits-all!

(And by the way, in that bottom shot, the bus-stop sign has been vandalized and removed, leaving the naked sign-post for those two waiters to gather around. An image that contains a parable perhaps -- a picture of what passes for community, in these parts.)

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

Poem and photos perfect fit--I was also STOPped by the last picture. If ever the authorities decide to affix the sign's severed head to its naked post, all they need to do is have it read "BUS"--they'll save money that way!

TC said...

And what else, my friend, are authorities about?

Marie W said...

The Tokyo commuting situation is an OMG alright. Who would have thought that pushiness could be so well organised? You can't improvise commuting pushiness. We have the best pushiness in the world and we are proud of it. We are very jealous of your smartphone evangelists though, you can never have too much expertise on stare-absorption theory. Oh well....
The naked sign-post, ah, how convenient, no stop sign, no need to put up a timetable.

Marie W said...

Well, come to think of it, the timetable has probably been vandalised too.

kent said...

Detroit Bureau Exclusive: The new Cass Tech closed for a second day due to failure of the state-of-art air conditioning system. But clocks work fine. k