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night subway :: katha pollitt

by on July 11, 2016

The nurse coming off her shift at the psychiatric ward
nodding over the Post, her surprisingly delicate legs
shining darkly through the white hospital stockings,
and the Puerto Rican teens, nuzzling, excited
after heavy dates in Times Square, the girl with green hair,
the Hasid from the camera store, who mumbles
over his prayerbook the nameless name of God,
sitting separate, careful no woman should touch him,
even her coat, even by accident,
the boy who squirms on his seat to look out the window
where signal lights wink and flash like the eyes of dragons
while his mother smokes, each short, furious drag
meaning Mens no good they tell you anything –

How not think of Xerxes, how he reviewed his troops
and wept to think that of all those thousands of men
in their brilliant armour, their spearpoints bright in the sun,
not one would be alive in a hundred years?

O sleepers above us, river
rejoicing in the moon, and the clouds passing over the moon.

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