In my post of November 6, 2010 (see http://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=4675306312689632650#editor/target=post;postID=2489485122221987711) I wrote about my series of poems focused on the U.S. 1 corridor in Howard County and the ideas and scenes that influenced those poems. Since that time I have added three poems to the series--"The Food Truck," "The Old Man at the Corner," and "U.S. 1, Howard County, Maryland." In addition to "Jessup," which was published in 2006 in You Are Here: The Journal of Creative Geography, two of the poems have been published or accepted for publication: "The Food Truck" in the Spring 2012 issue of Poetry Quarterly, and "Patuxent River Story," in issue #4 of Symmetry Pebbles.
"The Food Truck" focuses on the Hispanic food trucks that can be found along the Route 1 corridor, catering to the many workers in the warehouses, industrial parks, or gathering hoping for day labor opportunities. It combines the presence of the trucks with thoughts relating to the loss of livelihood by farmers in Mexico, put out of work by the flood of cheap corn from the United States after NAFTA took effect. I thought it fitting to have a farmer running the food truck. In Mexico, he grew food and provided for his family. No longer able to compete, he heads north and provides for his family back home by providing food for workers.
In writing "The Old Man at the Corner" I had in mind the men who can be seen panhandling from time to time at major intersections in the Jessup area; in particular, the man I would see at the intersection of the off-ramp from I-95 and MD Route 175 west. I have been part of the line-up of people in cars waiting for the light to change and trying to avoid eye contact. It's easy to dismiss such people as wanting to avoid work, or trying to earn easy money by begging from others, but when I think about it, I can't believe that most people eagerly turn to panhandling. Both this and "The Food Truck" came out of my thinking about what I would do or how I would feel if I was in a similar situation, if I had no other prospects or hope for feeding my family.
The last poem, "U.S. 1, Howard County, Maryland," is more of an ode to the road and the corridor, comparing it with other parts of the county-- parts that have better "curb appeal" if you will. U.S. 1 was the original highway through the county, connecting Howard with Baltimore and Washington and other points north and south. That role as "Main Street of the East Coast" has been usurped by I-95. U.S. 29 has taken over the role of major local highway, connecting the nicer, more upscale communities within the county, and passing through Columbia, which can be seen as Howard County's "downtown." U.S. 1, in many ways, has been forgotten... that is, except by those who find it to be an anomalous "eyesore" requiring a makeover to bring it in line and in compliance with the rest of the county.