In the mornings, amidst the millions,
Sometimes there is movement out there
In the cloying darkness of the tunnels,
When I squint
Through the breath of them all
And around the stagnation.
A separation of shadows,
A shift in the darkness.
I am being watched.
New York subway, you are the infinite headache
that propels me into the real world from dreams.
Through miles of eerie, uncobwebbed viscera,
you blink out of newsprint-encircled swamps
of litter and vermin and blackness,
You are the unsilent, the too-alive,
the hordes of us clinging
as we are dragged through your squealing, too-full bowels.
You brood beneath the city,
howling, grinning through the rust,
and cackling with livid exposed wire,
mad as you have made us,
unnatural as our daily, weary clamber down to you,
step after puddled, vile step,
foot after foot, with our quiet thoughts of rebellion
packed inside our lunch bags.
You make no sense, subway.
You are 24/7, like us,
but like us, also,
you are faking it.
And you know about our falsness,
because you listen to our muttered frustrations when we blame you for our problems,
to the flaccid bickering that breaks out in your vertebrae,
the beggars’ recitations whining along your arteries,
the drunks’ ceaseless laments curlicueing down your inner thighs,
the buskers’ rhythmic sobs, the homeless’s stuttering snores,
the insomniac breath of the multitudes.
You, who form stalactites of filth on the roof of your mouth
when you drip upon our sodden infidelities,
who roll your eyes when we show you our best
because you have, actually, seen it all.
You are the unflinching witness
to the teeming thousands who daily traverse your staircases
and do not slip.
They are miracles. And you are sick of them.
The embodiment of modernity, once,
now the breathing corpse of corruption,
patched and crutched and painted over,
we ignore you and forget you and revile you,
even as your gleaming rails spark like riots
and the morass of old batteries and piss and soda soaks it up.
Patiently. Viscously. Bitterly.
We have no choice, subway, but to tolerate one another—
we the humans and rats and roaches,
and you, the pulmonary oil slick of our homeland.
We are trapped in you—by you—
and you shriek with us as we stand side-by-side in your throat,
vomit us again and again onto the stinking platforms
where the dancing boys draw crowds
and the drums clatter off the mosaics.
We forget in an instant
the shadows waiting
between the inconceivably-placed lightbulbs
that dot the way to sickening infinity along your skeleton
and glitter as pinpoint reflections in our eyes.
Deep inside your body,
we fold inward and examine our own guts
while you grow bored with our half-thought-of poetry,
our to-do lists and quiet panic attacks.
We examine women’s shoes
and we gaze, unseeing,
into the deadened blackness—
the very belly of you.
We know it, in our twirling wine-soaked wee hours,
as the darkness in us.
The unknowable, gargantuan truth,
laid out like someone is reading our entrails
and predicting our very short future
as we gasp to a halt.
And sometimes, buried in your flesh,
we lock eyes through dimensions
with strangers floating in the miasma of your veins,
another train racing ours,
across the universe of the express/local divide,
and we press our noses to the glass,
and our fingertips.
And we refuse to blink.
We are always moving, subway.
You despise our pushing and swaying and breathing in you,
and we push back against you, with all our loathing.
We smear our handprints into your walls,
we grind our heels into your tiles,
we crowd into you,
demanding and panting and wretched to your blazing eyes,
drinking it all greedily.
Together, we burrow into the meat of New York.
That is the nature of us, together, this city of worms,
To desire and devour and detest,
to refuse to collapse.