3 poems from Today in the Taxi by Sean Singer
Today in the taxi I brought a family to Kennedy airport. They were flying Emirates back to their home country. They had five heavy suitcases. On the Van Wyck Expressway, they called and said they forgot a backpack, and it was behind my chair.
I was, at this point, nowhere near the terminal. I went back in the opposite direction. The mother came out at the agreed upon door and she gave me a strange look that was half-contempt and half-apprehension. She didn’t tip me and she didn’t thank me. She went inside.
I wish in retrospect I hadn’t returned the bag. As the night’s blanket moved across Queens I wondered if their passports were in the bag, or something unimportant that could be replaced. I cursed myself for putting up with people.
I remembered then the poor fellows on Catherine Slip who had to skin eels, danced for money and eels to eat, the eels who swam backward with a single ribbon of muscle in the waves.*
Yesterday in the taxi I thought about how the job is full of contradictions. I’m both stationary and moving, looking forward and responding back.
When Jacqueline du Pré walked on stage, she couldn’t feel her fingers and she couldn’t open her cello case. She didn’t know what sounds were going to come out or how she’d find them.
A silhouette moved across the dark sky, with its coral streaks, and glowed into silver sawdust and in its depth the blood of paradise.
Today in the taxi bringing a guy from the Upper East Side to Penn Station we were on Park Avenue when he rolled down the window and spit just as a food delivery guy on a bicycle was riding by.
The bike messenger looked incredulous. The passenger said “My bad,” an expression I loathe.
The bike messenger looked like “Is this actually happening to me?” The guy said "None of it got on you.”
The bike messenger looked like “What the fuck?” The guy said “My bad. I didn't see you.”
Once an elderly woman remembered Kafka, who had rented a room from her parents in February 1924. The woman, Christine Geyer, said that Kafka, already sick with tuberculosis, was spitting phlegm off the balcony. Didn’t he see the children playing below him in the arbor?
Sean Singer was born in Guadalajara, Mexico. He is the author of Discography (2002), winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize, and the Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America and a Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts; Honey & Smoke (2015); Today in the Taxi (forthcoming); and two chapbooks, Passport (2007) and Keep Right on Playing Through the Mirror Over the Water (2010).