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On the Marc Train Between Baltimore and Washington

Posted 12-13-2011 at 03:22 PM by ChrisGeorge
Updated 12-16-2011 at 08:03 AM by ChrisGeorge


Snow on the trackside between Baltimore and D.C. -- cellphone photograph by Chris George.

Many of the poems that I write are written on the Marc Train between my home in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., our nation's capital. I have worked for a medical education organization in Washington since the summer of 2000. I have to admit that the hour-long ride isn't always a pleasant one, what with people sitting next to me and elbowing me (I had a particularly fidgety guy this morning, ugh, not so elbowy but annoying nonetheless) or talking loudly on their Smartphones and other devices and making the whole rail car listen to their conversations. Luckily, I can shut out such noisy fellow passengers by turning up the music on my CD headphones to drown out those intrusions. Of course there are also the people who do other things... like women who make up their faces or paint their nails, or clip coupons. Also I like to put names to some of the passengers that I see on a regular basis, and sometimes write poems about them, such as "My Ride with Sven" about a passenger who reminds me of a former manager of England's national soccer team -- not great poetry... an occasional poem, if you like but it amuses me and it may do you as well... uh, it passes the time.

Indeed, I can write or read on the train, listen to music (anything from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Leonard Cohen to Annie Lennox etc), or fall asleep like my friend Sven. A number of other poems I have written either reference things I have seen from the train at trackside or are about incidents at Penn Station, Baltimore or at Union Station in Washington. You might say that the journey to D.C. has added to my life both culturally and poetically.

After working for nearly 30 years in Baltimore, I enjoy being instead in D.C. in the middle of all the history -- yes, including all the ballyhoo about the intransigence in Congress, and the ongoing game of brinkmanship between President Barack Obama and the Republicans!

I work on 12th Street, S.W., several blocks south of the National Mall where, if I feel like it, I can stroll through the gardens or go to one of the museums of the priceless Smithsonian Institution, like the National Air and Space Museum, or else the Freer Gallery where I can enjoy the artwork of American artist James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), in the stunning "Peacock Room" created by Whistler in 1876 for his patron, Liverpool shipping magnate Frederick R. Leyland. The two had a big falling out over it, as you will read, and the artwork on the one wall showing two defiant peacocks represents the himself peacockish artist Whistler facing off against his irate and pompous rich patron. If you are in Washington, D.C., you definitely should go to see the room or else just enjoy the web visit. Here's another web page with more on the Peacock Room, that includes some video. Check it out, friends.

In addition, of course, I can attend poetry readings at the Library of Congress or the Folger Shakespeare Library, which in addition to containing a world renowned collection of Shakespeare's First Quarto volumes sponsors a regular reading series of well-known poets. Am I making you feel jealous yet?

Allegorical Figures, Arts and Sciences Building, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. Photograph by Chris George.

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