Selections from Just Drive
What Cabbies Knew
In movies and on TV
cabbies are wisecracking fonts
of all wisdom, dispensing advice
on everything, having seen it all.
In real life, we knew routes,
and about how much a fare might cost.
And unlike trucker lore,
we knew of no secret diners
to roll eyes in gastronomic ecstasies.
We just shoveled in food
like on Old West locomotives
desperate to outrun outlaws,
then back to our belching cabs.
We knew the hotels where fares
waited for rides to the airports,
or to restaurants, or the theatre,
and back again. We knew when
Knick and Ranger games ended,
and swooped down like eagles
to snatch fares to Brooklyn, the Bronx.
We knew when theatres closed,
classical and rock concerts ended.
You wanted advice?
Listen to your mother.
We drove, we just drove.
The Streets at Night: Summer
The season every hack dreaded,
sweat puddling foreheads and arms,
hands slick as snail scum on steering wheels,
swear words a worry-bead litany exploding
into shouted curses more emphatic
than Ahabbe-damning the White Whale:
and not a fare to drag into the backseat:
everyone walking for once in their lives.
Only the drivers who sucked up
to the dispatcher got air-conditioned cabs.
Otherwise, you’d roll down the windows
and hope your few fares weren’t homicidal
when they ignored the cash slot
in the protective Plexiglas divider,
butgot out of the cab, and instead of
handing you the fare and a small tip,
pulled a gun or knifeon a deserted block
of window-shot-out factories and weed-
and broken-bottle choked lotsquieter
than dusty Old West ghost towns,
Those nights, you’d hang out at the airports
orthe Pierre or Plaza; or if you got lucky
with a fareto Yankee Stadium or Shea,
you’dspring for a bleacher seat,
and if you were really lucky
take a happy-drunk fan back to Midtown,
and he’d not puke all over the backseat.