The Derby Man

Photographer: Fred Lyon

The Derby Man

Fog waited at the city’s edge 
that pink Spring blossom day 
‘till blue black night accorded it 
permission to come in. 

For gripmen on late cable cars 
it meant end of a shift… 
hot coffee…sandwiches…a beer 
unmoving floor and walls.  

On Car 60, California Street  
sat…this night…the derby man
starched shirt, wool suit, 
gloved hands and vacant eyes. 
He appeared to be listening 
to sounds magnified by night 
of buried cable buzzing 
a sound like angry bees…   
of hollow clank and gripping 
of Monterey fir brakes.
Brass bell dinging echoed from the sides   
of stiff fronted houses lining all the street. 

The gripman shook his head 
to clear an April 18th spell 
of Great Earthquake haunting… 
for he must complete an angled turn 
then clench the moving cable  
then coast toward the Muni barn. 
A strand of fog almost like smoke  
rose before him on the track… 
the derby man was gone. 

Bonnie Marshall