in search of a superhero on the 4 train

dear black boy on green line, manhattan bound from the bronx,

I can still hear the music of your voice in my ears, but what to call a melody of screams. I have housed that fear, but never in that pitch and never out loud.

I did nothing.

I gave you my eyes, hoping they would stop your father, the long monster. I called him this, monster, because he is one.

I did nothing.

You dropped every spoonful of salt from your body through your eyes, begging to stand. You just wanted to stand. Why can’t I stand, you screamed. But the monster wouldn’t let you. Your father. I did nothing.

He called you son, while hitting your head as you screamed: “You said you were going to punch me in my neck.” I did nothing.

He said, “You are the reason everyone is staring.” And you continued to drop cups full of salt from your body as we all lifted our feet not to get wet from the drown of your fear. Your father, the monster, said he was going to punch one of us and called it your fault.

I/we did nothing.

I waited. I waited for someone else to do something because how long can one watch someone else’s trauma without reacting. Without doing something. We were all just bystanders waiting for another to step up.

I/we did nothing.

I kept waiting for someone to strap on a cape and save the day. I wanted to strap on a cape and save the day.

But I did nothing.


I think back to Kitty Genovese, a Queens woman who was stabbed to death just outside her home in 1964. Her neighbors watched during this attack. They watched the person leave, then come back and rape her. They watched and they did nothing.


Who or what are we waiting for?

When I finally got to Brooklyn, I walked off the train, headed above ground and cried. I cried for the boy and I cried for his cries. On that 4 train at 6pm, everyone on that train let him down. His calls for help were ignored.

I immediately reached out to my friend–a poet and teacher and the one who holds me accountable every single day for the tasks I hope to get through each day. I told him of this event. My hands shook and chest echoed.

I did nothing, I told him.

What can be learned from silence? At some point it must be cut into and turned up.


When silence creates pattern remove the middle and engrave the opposite.”


I’ve been carving up all the silences in me since I was a kid. Trying to tell on the fright inside me. Speaking up is a way of moving through.

dear black boy on green line, manhattan bound from the bronx,

I want you to know that there are many monsters out there and some even reside in our homes. But there are also superheroes, humans who smile without a need for anything back. Humans who do not punch or abuse with words. Humans who heal.

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