Sharp’s Commute

(15 November 1989) after Thomas Buchanan Read

The sun rises this morning from the south And fills the sky with autumn leaves. Neighbors on the street apologize for their dogs, Excusing their exposure to the sky. Beyond the dog run, steel rails rumble, Announcing the approach of the commuter train. And Sharp is 35 miles from work. As Sharp swings onto his bicycle, The engineer throws three blasts at the crossing, The bells start ringing, the roar increases, Arms swing down to hold the cars. Steam drifts from their exhausts And sweeps into the thunderous passage As the train rushes backward toward the city. And Sharp is riding the other way. Over the tracks, over the bridge, through the park, and down El Camino Real, Air loosens into wind behind Sharp’s swift bicycle, Giving life to leaves in strange pursuit. If he makes it on time, he rides even faster, Passing cars at the light that pass him on the hill. And Sharp is 31 miles from work. A bus leaves Page Mill and El Camino Real At seven o’clock in the morning. From there, the bus rolls south upon the freeway Like a moon in an orbit of asteroids, To pass, with its riders safely reading their papers, Into the terrible strife of rush-hour traffic. And Sharp is 25 miles from work. Slow to accelerate but slow to stop, The massive bus speeds through the smog. Metal to metal, tire to tar, It impels lesser craft to move aside, Spewing diesel exhaust in its rocket blast, Like a spaceship in orbit with floating debris. And Sharp is only 10 miles away. On the floor of the lobby the receptionist waits For something unusual to happen. As the clock approaches the morning shift, Workers straggle in like troops from battle. The buses line up to disgorge their people. Is this Sharp who sprints from door to door To make his 8 o’clock meeting? Yes, it is Sharp, who does this every day.