The Q100 to Rikers

At the end of the line – Ditmars Boulevard
in Queens – shake yourself awake, 
yawn, get off the N train.

In the shitty weather walk three blocks 
north on 31st to the bus stop, 
about 50 feet from the corner.

There you can wait in line with the nuns, 
wives, mothers and girlfriends
for the Q100 to Rikers.

You've never been to this jail –
an island in the ocean sound
built on bones and sorrow, 

landfill of ashes, ghosts,
hauled by the inmates
to make their own burial ground.

If you are looking for prison poets –
who shot their lovers like Verlaine shot Rimbaud  – 
they are slumped in plastic chairs in front of the tv.

They know a thief when they see one.
You are here with your poetry workshop
to steal what is furious, fierce,

Eat and feast on what is glorious:
"The heart of the poem of life
butchered out of their own bodies 

good to eat a thousand years.*"




*Allen Ginsberg, "Howl"

Shay’s Word Garden

12 thoughts on “The Q100 to Rikers

  1. This is full of meaty lines and references–I just spent ten minutes reading about Verlaine and Rimbaud–and also it very simply states what this world does to those who create–steal, commercialize if possible, and ultimately destroy. Working the Ginsberg lines in there makes a fitting and totally devastating statement at the close. Well-written and solid piece.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, glad you liked the Verlaine/Rimbaud rabbit hole. Like, who knew? Then I went down the Verlaine rabbit hole — apparently, he was a huge deal at the time. But who reads Verlaine? American readers don’t really get him in their flow the way they get fed Rimbaud. I resolved to read more, but alas; I resolve to read a lot of stuff that piles up on the floor.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I like what Laura said about how the poem literally travels. I felt as if I were there, and having used public transpo for years, I have the frame of reference. I can’t imagine what prison must have been like for Corso, though his second stretch went better than his first, and he found a way to survive, much like the boy in “Empire of the Sun” if you’ve read or seen that. I got roped into doing a visit like this once, and couldn’t wait to get out of there. I told the person who dragged me that they could drag themselves, alone, from then on. One woman walked up to me and told me she was Patrick Swayze. Alrighty then.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yeah, was thinking alot about Corso in the Tombs. That building was demolished in the ’70’s. I’ve been to the “new” Tombs (“to” not “in”!). These days they would have sent him to Rikers, which isn’t just a hellhole, it is Hell Island. I was going to write more about the bus, which is just the saddest goddamn bus. That is saying a lot given the competition for sad, sadder, saddest bus in NYC. Yeah, poetry in prisons, and so many amazing poems from poets in/out of prison. I guess if you are a famous French poet and you shoot your lover, you get a plaque on the train platform in Brussels, otherwise, you get Rikers. Ending with Howl was some attempt to honor the Beats of course, but a cheap shot on my part to take one of the most powerful lines of poetry ever written and just throw it out there as my homage.

          Liked by 2 people

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