no, this is just what happens when you pay attention to the life outside and in.

Bodies fold like tired laundry. Beds are no longer a necessity when eyes climb closed and the push/pull of subway lulls bones to sleep. We wear our coats now. Construction boots. Necks are scarve’d and skulls are capped by wool. How contagious is that cough at the end of this train. Would we still exist without cell phones or candy crush.

At 6:36am on Wednesday, the sky still sleeps. Call it eighty shades of black with planets that blink. If I hadn’t of noticed that chip in the moon last night, I might have forgotten why I look up so often. At 125th Street, the humans get off and suddenly that coveted blue bench is empty. I am book-ended by sleepy commuters and across, a man shakes his neck toward the music piped into his ears. I need no record or radio to channel the pre-recorded rhythms in my mind.

Outside, pigeons flap wings wearing reminders of breakfast: barbecue sauce, bones on their breath. I cannot explain why I call them my favorite bird, but maybe it is their flight. History as grey and white mailboxes or. Maybe it is the way they are ignored or shooed away. And aren’t the most beautiful parts of earth also what we tend to forget to notice?

if you see something say something

I am joined by the rats. They have relay races over rails, creating music with their teeth against candy wrappers. I watch them. I watch others watch them. We take secret bets as to which rats will make it past this day, this week. Which are the strong ones. The smart ones. One tears open a bag of chips that fell to its death from human’s hands and sharp teeth make a percussion sound as it nibbles and attacks.

When they scurry over our countertops or across rooms in apartments, we scream. Here, we accept them as long as they stay below where the tracks are. We are the voyeurs above. Feeling brave as their presence does not shake us. I give each one a name. Wonder about its family. Is it happy. Does it wonder about me.

A woman with black-and-grey newspaper skin, crumpled and delicate, spits out pieces of candy bar toward the rats. One bite for them one bite for her. Her spits are angry– less about sharing and more about target practice. She spills coffee toward the tracks– a determined splash. And I wonder if she wants to clean them with her caffeine or get them addicted like her. She takes a sip then spills again. As B train approaches at Dekalb station in Brooklyn, she throws the rest of her coffee toward the rats to drown them before the electric shocked subway arrives.

you are yellow like that dandelion

I think you’re okay with your dandelion yellow braids that measure in miles down your back and huddled over your shoulders. I tried not to let you notice me counting them so I lost track at thirty.

I think you’re okay because while your friends were judging another because her teeth are too crooked and her weave is wicked, you said:

Why do you have to be so mean?

And before you spoke, I watched your mouth. Your lips moving in and out, popping breaths, waiting for the right moment to cut them up with your question.

Weeks earlier, I was sitting across from two young girls on the 3 train and I could hear them whispering about me. Without letting them notice me notice them, I could hear bits and pieces of their judgements. My hair (kind of frizzy. weird color). My jacket (all ripped up). My face (ugly).

But you: yellow dandelion braids and large green sweater knitted past your knees…
you made an effort to question the need for meanness.

Why must we notice the stains in someone’s shirt before the vibrant color wrapped around that smudge?

Why must we focus on someone’s weight (too fat/ too thin) when we have no idea the history of their skin and bones and health and need to be or hesitance to be that way?

Why must we be so afraid of the man on the bus who screams out words when maybe this is the only time in his day when he feels listened to?

You with your yellow dandelion braids twisted into your scalp like a tapestry…
I will not judge you for pronouncing the “t” in listen, if you look beyond my crookedness and knotty, stained demeanor.

Because I also notice how eloquent you are.
And if you gave me just a moment, you might notice the same in me.

there is a subway between my legs

My vagina has been recalled. I’m having a difficult time finding a box big enough or deep enough to send it back. How many stamps will it need? Should I include a post-it of instructions. How to treat it. I want to know if it will be discarded or distributed as recycled paraphernalia.

My cunt is a Basquiat graffiti tag…

I was recently asked to draw it. What does it look like and should I be thinking of shapes like diamonds or triangles rather than New York skyscrapers and underground trains. It’s been awhile since I used a mirror down there and it was tiny and borrowed and barely allowed me enough of a reflection to see far in.

My pussy is an incorrect charge on a credit card slip.

I think I was supposed to draw a flower like O’Keeffe or something drenched in pink like genitals doused in Pepto Bismol. I used a black pen. There is no need for colour. I want to imagine it like a silent movie in black and white and grey tones. Perhaps it is accompanied with a score by Phillip Glass or Yann Tiersen. It is barely friendly, more like a wallflower.

My vagina is an octopus with eight opinions.

And do I need to be connected to it and should I have a bond undisturbed by the ghostly fingerprints ruining its posture.

“I’m not quite sure we are on the same page body (sometimes). I need some time alone. I want to walk around today undisturbed. I am looking to try out some other options. I need you to be okay with this. I don’t want to pretend. Today…today…today I just want something else to be there in your place.”

My cunt is a hibernating bear defying routine. It is a reduced price sale item. Call it pummelo or clementine. Call it an elephant manuscript.

This does not have to be about gender. This does not need a doctor’s slip. Don’t post this. Don’t ask me what I mean when I ask you to call it a thistle blister. Today, you are a 3 train heading uptown. You’re mussed and written on. There are too many men in here. I kick them out. There are crying babies; I kindly ask them to leave. Anyone else still on, I push out too. Now, you are an empty train. My vagina is an empty train. I like it that way.

how native is your tongue

Two small Hispanic men walk onto the 2 train with a guitar and accordion. Their faces turn into spotlights beaming happiness, as their fingers begin pressing keys and plucking strings.

I have no idea what they are singing about, but it doesn’t matter. It is 9:28 am and I am being serenaded on my way to work in one of the most beautiful languages: Spanish.

I have fallen in love with Spanish tongues, slurring curled letters into my ears. When I speak, I don’t always pay attention to where my teeth go or if my tongue touches them or if my lips grow into a tiny circle instead of a pushed back parallelogram.

When I am on the subway, my metro card turns into a passport and I become a world traveler. I hear Portugese and Mandarin. I hear Patois and Hebrew. I hear slang and hybrid variations. I wonder if I stayed on long enough, if I could learn enough to call myself trilingual.

I have swallowed a lot of almosts. I almost learned how to properly play clarinet (though I really wanted to learn drums). I almost went to culinary school. I almost got married. I almost lost my life a few times. I almost went to Germany. I almost memorized a poem. I almost fainted the other day. I almost left Brooklyn (again).

In high school, I almost learned Spanish, but I was too preoccupied with trying to die and learning how to understand the directional pattern of my awkwardly growing body and some stuff about my mom and … and … and …

I’d like to practice my tongue roll. I’d like to learn how to read Neruda’s original work, without its English translation. I’d like to sit on the 2 train toward work and not only hear these men singing, but understand them as well.

I’d like to be bilingual.

memory of (a) father

Early before the day officially begins, a young man–with canvas bag balancing against shoulder and back–waits for the 3 train toward Manhattan. He presses his fingers together and pulls them apart, holding an imaginary photograph.

Dad, this is the concrete. Dad, I am waiting for the train. Dad, remember this wall. Dad…

I turn around, ungluing my eyes from a book that keeps me occupied and notice him. Because he needs to be noticed. Because maybe the other two humans watching think he is crazy. I think he is mourning. I think he is far more human than all of us.

He is tall, slender, and although his face is dry, mine becomes wet with tears.

Wonder if he carries the phantom photograph with him everywhere. Wonder if he narrates his entire day to his dad, whom he stretches out his hands toward. His palms face the subway platform:

Dad, this is my day. Dad, remember when you said….

He starts to a hum a song, maybe one they used to sing together. The words are muffled by the sounds of traffic above and the rats below. His hands are still outstretched. His father’s face is imaginary and yet I can almost see him too.

When I think about fathers, I think about gratitude. I think about garage sales, whistling, listening to old time radio shows, sitting on benches and making up stories about the people who pass by. I think about baking, making dim sum, watching old episodes of Columbo. I think about late night chats over coffee and over-cooked (but delicious salt and peppered chicken). Sharing tales of dates and love affairs while playing Uno or canasta.

This is when I realize when I think about fathers, I am thinking of mine.

One of the times I ran away, I did not get very far. I packed up my backpack shaped like a spaceship, silver with fake buttons, and packed a peanut butter sandwich, grapes and my notebook. I got no further than a few blocks away before I turned around. Ate my sandwich. Forgot about the grapes. Months later, they became raisins.

Years later, I ran away to my favorite park at the time. This was when I could drive. Walked out of psychology class or math class and drove to this small park in suburban New Jersey. Wrote poems. Carved my name into as many benches as I could find. I needed to imprint myself. Even now, those scars can still be found.

I ran away to my father’s house when I was supposed to be in English class. Drove until I found myself at his driveway outside of Hartford. Used my key. Walked inside. We ate stir fry.

On this morning, a man holds onto his father so deeply, his hands become a photo album. He is a documentarian. He is a traveler. He is lamenting. He is a son.

I was supposed to go first.

I think this, as I watch this young man converse with his father. I was supposed to leave when I was fifteen. Then sixteen. Seventeen twice. Many times when I was nineteen. Twenty-four should have been it. Twenty-seven was in slow motion, but it should have been the last time.

We are both still here. Though we are often so ghostly. We are often just drifting. The Uno cards sometimes get picked up. We’ve replaced stir fry with his famous spare ribs and dim sum is still dim sum, but we both should be eating more vegetables.

There is disease(s) now between us both. There is heartache and sorrow and loss and regret and exhaustion and secrets and love and love.

I wonder if this young man had enough time with his father. I wonder if this young man really knew his father. I wonder how long he has walked with this photograph that only he can see. I wonder if any visible ones exist.

hold still: before a fall, skim into burnt journal

There are miles carved into my feet and some may call them calluses but I call them love affairs.

Alone, I sit inside these full-length/wide-angled scars.

A woman with a pierced tongue asks me how often I think about death and when I think about it, what thoughts arrive.

I think about pushing myself onto subway platforms and the stain I’d leave on 4 train dashboard.

I think about a stranger’s palm rubbed up against my spine and thrusting me toward the third rail.

I think about invisible diseases in my breasts, belly, wrists and forehead.

I wonder if, when I die, anyone will alert her of my self-inflicted execution.

Soon, I travel to another land I lived in with a woman. And I will bring enough poems to plaster over memories. I can spackle the sidewalks with sonnets and footnoted translations.

I will sleep in that park that houses dead people in its soil. Way down below. Beyond the seedings and tree trunks. I’ve heard their sobs.

I will dance inside a garden full of dandelion wishes and silently pray for sage to steam open my body. There will be a ritual. A creek. A cloaked philosopher wearing musical notes and patchworked bones.

I’m ready to let go now.
I’m ready for the aloneness felt from monologues.
I’m ready to move (away)

can a reflection be walked in?

I see you with paper covering narrow face because too many people called you ugly and not enough humans called you invincible.

I see you crouched against bars like a jail called 14th street subway station with woman called mama and girl called sister and cardboard called megaphone for begging.

Here is an apple and I watch as you dig against the skin with your teeth, spit it out as though it is toxic. It’s OK to eat the flesh, I want to say, but instead I gather up your eating habits and wonder if you even eat enough to have habits.

I see you wearing enough raindrops to call yourself a puddle.

I see your arms covered in so many scars that your skin has become looseleaf, separate and removable.

I see your smile, curved downward and when you pass by accordionist wearing tattoos and blue hair, you want to notice her too. You want to thank her for playing Yann Tiersen as you cry into your palms. You want to ask her to follow you home and rub your back with each pressed note.