During the SEPTA Strike

by Sarajane Sein

The sun has barely risen in the sky,

as the crowd descends as one upon the trains,

 

the words "strike" echoing in every head,

transcending the outside differences,

the same way those Phillies shirts did not so long ago.

 

But the Phillies have lost, and the strike has begun,

leaving worries rattling in every brain,

wondering when Willie Brown and the TW 234 will be

satisfied at last, if ever.

 

Or when the governor will give in,

make that clockwork mechanism of the buses

and the el and the subway

run again, starting and stopping at times tabulated

on those folded paper bibles Philadelphians

pluck from station racks.

 

As the train pulls off - that only mode of

transportation left, the lonely Regional Rails -

the passengers wonder, "How long?

How long this time?"

Memories of previous strikes flooding their

thoughts like Polaroid pictures strewn

on the empty sidewalks of Center City.

 

Those who have been downtown have seen

the deserted Gallery, the underground mall

once filled with teenagers skipping school,

hanging outside in groups.

 

Now vacant except for a few stragglers,

Regional Rail riders waiting for their signs

to flash "on time" for the route they must ride.

 

The train pulls past University City,

gleaming with the first lights of businesses

and office buildings, shimmering against

the river.

 

The conductor turns to the passengers

in the car which he stalks, hole-puncher

in hand, like an appointed prison guard

who must make sure that despite the strike

every - card - gets - punched.

 

He says:

"This is the last stop.

The strike issue has been settled."

Philadelphia moves off the train,

flooding into 15th Street Station

at once, as the clock resets.