It Could Have Been the T, But I Think It Was the El
You, who are only vaguely familiar,
summoned not as dream but afterthought,
who passes in newly pressed shame—where are you going?
I thought I knew you at first. Almost as a memory
fleeing through the schoolyard’s jeering hoots,
the shadowy catch-as-catch-can antics left over
from boyhood. Almost I was certain when,
ducking under the platform’s awning, you lifted
a hand to smooth down your hair and looked
back as if struck by some small, despising thing.
Feeling the air and concrete go vitreous and frail
then broken against the sun’s cold light,
I said to myself, not here, not now, and your face
dimmed to little more than an oddly pointed
annoyance, stinging from time to time like a needle tongue.
For a while, the El-stop’s heat lamp
warmed me. A train came. I stepped on, forgetting it all:
the heaped days, the childish malice,
even the twisted honey-suckle thickets along that ditch
where, as a child, I ran to hide.
“It Could Have Been the T, But I Think It Was the El” first appeared in The Southeast Review, 23.1 (2004).