Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday Poetry: Taxi, by Elise Paschen


Why don't we cruise
Times Square at noon
enjoy the jam
I'm not immune
to your deft charm
in one stalled car
I'd like to take
you as you are

- by Elise Paschen

This remarkable little poem isn't famous, and it never will be. I clipped it out of a New Yorker back in 1995, and stuck it in a notebook I found on a shelf yesterday. It doesn't strive to explain deep truths, or justify God's ways to man. But it perfectly captures the giddiness of naughty lust that leavens the loaf of life.

There's quite a bit going on in the short space of the poem. The poem's title works to make the poem even more audacious - she's not only proposing the exhibitionist thrill of a quickie in Times Square, she wants to do it in a taxi!

Structurally, the poem is a gem. The line breaks work with the rhymes to give a short, choppy feel to the poem. Each line has two stressed syllables (at least if you read it the way I do, with Times Square rising on the Square), in iambic form for the first four lines. When we lead up to the proposition, though, it becomes more halting - "deft charm" and "stalled car" stand and grab attention against the iambic flow.

The poem is made all the more delightful because the reader is the object of her bawdy desire. "We", "your", and finally "you". This is not a love for the ages - she doesn't praise our sagacity or steadiness. We aren't compared to a summer's day - we are merely deft in our charm, and that's good enough for her. She'll take us as we are.

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Anonymous Sophia said...

The date of publication is fascinating. Having sex in a taxi in Times Square in the early 90's (crime ridden area full of sex-related businesses) was a very different thing than it would be today (touristy area, gangs of school children looking on in awe). Another intrusion from reality, aren't they getting around to banning motor vehicles in Times Square?

These are not critiques of the poem. It's just interesting that a younger person would need footnotes to understand the context, even thought it wasn't that long ago. It's almost an elegy.

3/29/2009 11:41 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

You're right about all that, though I think the only real change to the poem is that the thrill has gone from being exhibitionist and seedy to being more simply exhibitionist.

I hadn't heard about banning traffic from Times Square. I hope they don't - the hurry-up atmosphere would be diminished.

3/29/2009 11:57 AM  
Blogger Elise said...

Dear Dan,

I loved discovering your comments about "Taxi" via Google. The poem was published in "Infidelities" (Story Line Press) in 1996 and also appeared in the Chicago "Poetry in Motion" program around 2002. I recently launched a website: and, inspired by your comments, included "Taxi" there. My new poetry collection, "Bestiary," was just published by Red Hen Press.

All good wishes!

4/28/2009 10:48 PM  

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