The Poetry of Public Transportation

Brittney Sedgwick
November 28, 2019
Autumn, Trees, Stadtpark

A half-moon brought paper to the poets of the world. 

I scrawl these lines on blank pages with my right hand (the left is occupied with a broom). I haven’t found nearly enough time for writing since being abroad, but there are occasions like these when the UBahn isn’t so full that I have to wait for the next train. During these moments, I sit at the window and watch the U4 twist in its tunnel, following a route similar to my thoughts: on a straight track, then switching abruptly. In darkness, then drenched in light. 

These moments of transition are merely background happenings, as I’ve ridden this commute several times a day for months now. I know when to hold onto something nearby in preparation for an upcoming jolt, and I know the announcement for Karlsplatz by heart:

"Karlsplatz. Umsteigen zu, U Eins, U Drei, D, Eins, Zwei, Zweiundsechzig, Einundsechzig, Zwei A, Vier A, Neunundfunfzig A, Localbahn nach Baden. Austieg links" 

Then, passing Karlsplatz towards Hütteldorf, it is mostly above ground until my stop. I know this, too, but on the odd days of quiet and slow, I follow the tracks, and they always lead somewhere new.

I am carrying my apartment’s broom on the UBahn because I used it as a prop in the last Performance Workshop Concert and it must now return to the little space beside our refrigerator. I don’t think much of it now, but the first time I brought the broom to rehearsal, I wondered if I might get inquisitive stares from other passengers. Then, with the help of my roommates, I gathered a list of sights on the UBahn:

  • Our broom
  • Dogs, dogs, and more dogs
  • Groceries 
  • Tree branches
  • A coat rack
  • An Ikea bag of mannequin heads

I suppose the broom isn’t so unusual.  

Although commuting requires more time, I’ve enjoyed it since high school, which took much longer to reach via Septa, Philadelphia’s public transportation system. (Septa, and really any public transportation I’ve used in the United States, is inadequate at best - especially compared with Vienna’s public transportation.) The time always serves as a space to center myself, to listen to music, talk with friends, or whatever I need on the given day. 

There are times when I am a little too tired, and the commute seems a little too long. This is especially true with the changing of seasons, as the sun now sets around 16:15 (4:15pm), so when I leave my class at 18:30 (6:30pm) on Mondays and Thursdays, the sun has long since left to light other lands of this planet. There was one particular Thursday, though, when something made the evening feel lighter. Inside of Stadtpark, one of the two closest U4 stops to the IES Abroad Center, a man sat on a stool with his guitar, tucked into the corner, performing Niel Young’s Harvest Moon. I listened for a bit before walking downstairs to the platform. Even below, I could still hear him in the distant wind. I felt tired and spacey, but looked up, smiling at the moon, just as the UBahn pulled in. 

It hits me every now and again that I only have a few weeks left in Vienna. It seems that most of my reflections on temporary time occur within the tracks of the U4. Perhaps it is because, like many other things in Vienna, this route has become so familiar, and again, like so many things in Vienna, I can’t imagine its familiarity dissolving. 

This recalls a poem that I’ve been reading a lot lately, titled Forgetfulness by Billy Collins. I recommend a read or two. 

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Brittney Sedgwick

<p><span style="color:#333333">I am Brittney Sedgwick, a rising junior studying Music Performance at Gettysburg College. I sing classical music: art song, opera, chamber music, and more. Before attending Gettysburg, I spent four years studying creative writing. I love reading poetry, drinking tea, going for sunset walks, and stargazing. </span></p>

Program:
Destination:
Term:
2019 Fall
Home university:
Gettysburg College
Hometown:
Philadelphia, PA
Major:
Music Performance
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