Anthony Deaton

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).