Crowded Subway

I’m on a crowded subway, clutching a heavy book that requires two hands not one, but where to place my fingers?  On the warm metal pole, or balance, maybe lean, against a door or a railing where the puff of a stranger’s coat already peaks through.

I’m lost in rolling sentences, in the rain of words, and my scarf is warm, too warm, for the scratchy wool on one side of me and that backpack strap slapping at my wrists, with my messenger bag smashed between her angry stare and the dull hum of his headphones.

When she comes on, I’m pushed by someone else and then I’m flailing, slipping from the grip of memory where the period had nudged up against a space. I wonder which word had come before it, which might come next, because suddenly the page is a mash of words I have to puzzle together, like the time I lost a fluttering bookmark to the water on the tracks and there went my place.

She talks of the goodness of God and I would mind it if she was yelling, like the others do, but she’s just talking, like we’re listening. She likes a crowded train, she says, and God is still good, and maybe that’s where I’ve found the extra o, the roundness of it, in the sentence I have had to let go of, because the train has tossed me again, and my hands are tight to the crinkled binding of the book, not at the slip-away railing, where they should be, and as I falter, then find footing between one crooked-heeled boot and a tattered shoelace, she says, It’s okay. You can fall on me.

And, usually, I wouldn’t say a word, not so early in the morning, not to someone basketball squeak dribbling, dribbling about the goodness of God but she’s just talking, like I’m listening, just that way, so I say, and I don’t know why I do, I say, Thank you.

You can fall on me, she says again. I’ve got nowhere to go.


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