[I’m coming to this poem not as a fan of Ezra Pound or necessarily of Modernism but as a someone who hates the subway.
As a true Citizen, I know the City won’t function without mass transit; you might as well place a tourniquet on the City’s main artery and walk away. But with most things we can’t live without, it’s hard as hell to live with it. The overcrowding, delays, loud conversations, bad music, foul body odor, and that’s just the waiting platform. Once inside the car, you can amp up all the previous annoyance factors and add in claustrophobia and motion sickness to the list.
No wonder Pound remains to stay in the station, focusing her energies not on the train but the people around him. Not static faces, since that would indicate staring–a strict no-no in any City, but the “apparitions” around him. He’s trapped with bodies he will see again and never know, a Modernist’s dream. And where does he take all this, as far as he can away from there back to nature. Depending on the station you frequent, it could be miles up past bedrock or just within reach on an el by a park but distance doesn’t matter in poems. Or in the City if you have a fast enough train, you just have to put all the ugliness and people to the side.]
In a Station of the Metro
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.