And the words they go down. Down where travelers wait on platforms with steely-eyed stares, gazing across tracks. And the words they go across too. On the white walls of the subway tiles, placed by hand, they add stark contrast to a bleak underground world. New Yorkers on their way, weary, waiting to step off a platform onto a hurrying train, stand still or stand restless. It’s a sea of humanness in the Brooklyn Subway on a June day. Unseasonably cold weather has blown into New York and it mirrors the mood of its people.
We tape a temporary grid on the walls, counting out the spaces—horizontal, vertical clues for this wordplay and intriguing distraction. It’s healing. It’s unexpected. They ask who we are and why we are there. And we simply say we are there to bring some joy to the subway.
We Were Part of The Art Bus Project
We brought words, letters, southern accents, nuance and novelty to routine and sameness. We brought uncertainty and little or no expectations. There was no template for this taping of a puzzle on the subway walls in the middle of New York.
An offering of poetry for the masses in the public square? A place for poetry in the middle of mass transit? Why not? But for now, on this day, we taped a crossword puzzle up and down the walls of a Brooklyn station. We supplied clues and letters and tape.
We invited. People responded. It was a playful change of pace for the commuter waiting near the track. The responses were varied—the shy one, the skeptic, the eager one, the tired grump, and more. Representing everyman. Representing everywoman.
The verdict was in. You could read it in the facial expressions of the subway-riders that day. Words heal, words connect, words bridge gaps of space and time and emotion between souls.
Pick a clue, solve a puzzle, and watch as smiles appear and laugh lines light the faces of commuters.
A word, or two, for the souls of the travelers. The day the words went up and down.
For more on the Art Bus Project, watch this documentary video by Nathan Lee.
- Literary Tour: Blue Bicycle Books (Charleston, SC) - August 7, 2013
- Brooklyn Subway: The Poetry of Crossword Puzzles - January 11, 2013