«RETURN TO 501 Queen Streetcar

Poem by Naila Keleta-Mae: memories five oh one



Naila Keleta-Mae Special to the Star

memory five
hot humid rush hour
summer streetcar sound clash
doors open, enter

ghetto blaster on shoulder
"all hail the queen"
in cassette deck
radio dial tuned to flow

she is neo-vintage
collar popped high
like the king of prussia
she nods at conductor

metal strikes metal
change clangs
paper transfers
she steps  low  high

s l  o  w
capacity exceeded
61 sit 183 stand cram
press damp flesh

perfume surrenders
cologne collapse
pores open, sweat spices
smell everybody's kitchen

"next stop, bay street"

streetcar's cooking
steam drips from windows
and ceiling-mounted cameras

memory oh
"this the king one?"
"no ma'am, the 5-oh-1"

kipling and lakeshore. articulated light rail vehicle number four thousand two hundred and thirty-three. mechanical parts rumble, whistle, creak. seated at very back centre amidst debris of newspapers and messages in black marker: "i'm watching you" "d.g. was here." about to write "so was nkm" but get distracted, glimpse glistening water between buildings, humber bay park bridge backlit by rising sun, and passengers on fall runway display. sway walk sway walk sway. boots scarf clutch, pumps trench attaché, kicks t-shirt guitar, gladiators sweater suitcase. woman in double-seater fishes purse for mirror. applies chapstick, mascara, blush. cuts fingernails. "next stop, river street." willows weep concrete iron asphalt maple leaves. earbuds leak muted bass lines and snippets of conversations: "donc, t'achèteras les billets?" "chuh, is weh him a chat bout?" "i think she's in denial" "claro que si amigo"

memory one
been short-turned
humber-looped

pigeons
hydro towers
streetcar wires

three bus posts
four riders
waiting

 

toronto
in transit.

Naila Keleta-Mae is an artist-scholar and an assistant professor in the department of drama and speech communication at the University of Waterloo. www.nailakeletamae.com

Queen_keleta

Author Naila Keleta-Mae is seen heading westbound on the 501 Queen streetcar.

RICHARD LAUTENS/TORONTO STAR

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They misspelled Toronto in the video.

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