This is the fortnight I ride the subway
to the flat-ends of the sprawl, two hundred
miles of metal. I’ve hassled to the front
of car 1, hands flat against palm-warm glass.
The train smashes through dark and straw people
sit on local platforms staring nowhere,
a jarred look they’ve been practising for years.
I kind of wonder who they really are.
My body tacks with the fastest stretches.
The squeal is pitched to a plateau of pain
I absorb as personal: another
fighter of a curve. There’s so much iron
in the screech of those sways I could almost
taste it, like a toy you put in your mouth
when you’re little. Workmen carry lanterns
along buddleia sidings. I keep watch
for sewer rats. One tenth of a second
is all it takes to see a thing complete.
Then the express stations, the berserk brakes,
figures graded like refugees. They come
wagging through doors, bang against the rubber
edges, inch their way in, are quickly pinned,
looking out past the nearest heads with that
honed disregard that is something of me.