Subway Rider

 

I

We run on parallel lines.

Trains waver and tug, elongated aquariums,

mist windows.

They

 

are bright passengers.

We are bright passengers.

I know them, all neck and shoulders, eyes

fixed on nothing

on purpose.

 

We ease up; they pull away,

lit windows churning the cavity.

 

II

The slabs snap closed.

I sit beside a Chinese man, crumpled in his coat.

I do not let my purse disturb him.

Characters tumble like rungs down a page.

There I read his loneliness, how he treasures

the heft of paper turning in his own empire.

 

III

We are crawling beneath your houses.

Even at the quietest hour on earth

We thought the world was soft

     but it is not soft.

We thought being swallowed

would mean something liquid.

     It is dank and smells of soil.

 

When the coming heat squeezes

the surface of oxygen

we might be breathing below.

 

IV

A straggler comes dragging

a lame foot like a broom.

The train draws away,

emptying the tunnel.

His clothes clasp him,

flapping in the black rag wind.

 

Behind him, a woman grasps

a map close to her face.

With a finger, she scans

the same lines of departure times,

as if repeated reading

would set the page on fire.

 

These windows will deliver us;

in unison we move.

 

V

Long after wheat and grasses

after lunches and sleep

long after sunlight,

attention fastens to a rat

traversing the tracks.

 

There is silt to learn, and gravel.

 

In the subway I dream

of the subway, its plunge and plummet.

 

And what is the platform

but a cliff to spring from,

what is the train but velocity

that speeds me clear to an end

I have chosen.

 

VI

 

Leave me alone in the earth;

leave me worldless in hollows, chewing dirt.

Confront me with nothing to read,

no reception, strangers.

 

I've had enough of outside,

enough talk and moonlight,

enough air and getting in line.

 

I've brought it all with me underground.

My eyes brim with old images,

 

lit windows churning the earth.

 

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