by Russell Edson
One night in the dark I phone for a taxi. Immediately a taxi crashes through the wall; never mind that my room is on the third floor, or that the yellow driver is really a cluster of canaries arranged in the shape of a driver, who flutters apart, streaming from the windows of the taxi in yellow fountains…
Realizing that I am in the midst of something splendid I reach for the phone and cancel the taxi: All the canaries flow back into the taxi and assemble themselves into a cluster shaped like a man. The taxi backs through the wall, and the wall repairs…
But I cannot stop what is happening, I am already reaching for the phone to call a taxi, which is already beginning to crash through the wall with its yellow driver already beginning to flutter apart…
0 thoughts on “The Taxi”
A prose poem! What makes it poetic? Imagination? Imagery? Economy? Intensity? Brevity? Never mind. It presents itself and we deal with it.
We don’t know why he wants a taxi. That’s irrelevant here. What is relevant is that he phones for one “in the dark” and it “crashes through the wall.” He tells us “never mind” that he lives on the third floor and the driver “is really a cluster of canaries,” etc. Which though it’s beautiful and funny is also unimportant. “Something splendid” is happening in the dark frame of his mental space.
After this, two events loom in significance: “Realizing that I am in the midst of something splendid I reach for the phone and cancel the taxi” and then “But I cannot stop what is happening, I am am already reaching for the phone to call a taxi.” Never mind that the movie clip plays backwards and then forwards again.
Realizing he’s in the midst of something splendid, why does he reach for the phone to cancel the taxi, instead of hopping in for a ride to wonderland? And if splendor frightens him, why does he reach to call it back?
Interestingly enough, all he has to do is reach, and the events occur, and recur, we sense from the ellipse, in an endless loop. Here’s the point: he’s become fixated on the phenomena itself and has to keep recalling it; not exploiting it or getting rid of it. I don’t know a psychological term for this, but the poet has identified it, and no matter if it’s happened to us or not, we recognize its obsessive quality. Maybe that above all is what makes this a poem: insight.