One Summer Day on the Number One Train
When the doors of the express opened at 72 Street,
the local was waiting. She entered with me,
tall and angular as a crane, her expression alert,
violin poised against her clavicle like a wing.
The train was half-empty, the passengers dozing
or absorbed in their smartphones.
She stood at one end of the car, her gaze
swiftly appraising us, while the doors slid shut.
Closing her eyes, she lifted her bow
and dipped her chin, and into that pause
went all the years of preparation
that had brought her to this moment.
The train accelerated in a rush of cacophony,
her music welled up, and I recognized
a Bach concerto blossoming to fullness
like an ever-opening rose. Suddenly
I was crying for no reason and every reason,
in front of strangers. I thought of the courtroom
where, an hour ago, I’d sat listening to testimony
with fellow jurors, charged to determine the facts
and follow the law. But no matter how we tried,
we couldn’t reverse damage or undo wrong.
The music was contrast and balm, like sunlight
in subterranean air. The tears wet on my cheeks,
I broke into applause, joined by fellow passengers.
We’d become an audience, her audience,
just before the doors opened and we scattered.
Making my offering, I exited, too shy to catch her eye.
But she’d seen the effect her music had wrought.
Its echo resounded in my memory, following me
into the glory of the summer afternoon.
It is with me still.
~ Anne Whitehouse