“Bach in the DC Subway” by David Lee Garrison

David Lee Garrison


As an experiment,
the Washington Post
asked a concert violinist—
wearing jeans, tennis shoes,
and a baseball cap—
to stand near a trash can
at rush hour in the subway
and play Bach
on a Stradivarius.
Partita No. 2 in D Minor
called out to commuters
like an ocean to waves,
sung to the station
about why we should bother
to live.

A thousand people
streamed by. Seven of them
paused for a minute or so
and thirty-two dollars floated
into the open violin case.
A café hostess who drifted
over to the open door
each time she was free
said later that Bach
gave her peace,
and all the children,
all of them,
waded into the music
as if it were water,
listening until they had to be
rescued by parents
who had somewhere else to go.

from Rattle #30, Winter 2008


David Lee Garrison: “I began writing poems in high school when I realized that Iris Meade would never go out with me. I talked with Iris at our 25th reunion and found that she was a much more complex, talented, and beautiful person than the one I saw through the prism of adolescent hormones. We’re good friends now, and I still write poems.”

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