The Subway Strummer


Below concrete caverns of city,
within the howling packs of trains,
a singer tunes his chords ready to unravel
urban dwellers, rearranging atoms.

The atmosphere changes as his voice rides stale air,
extracting thoughts of her loneliness, slick on skin,
like a thin layer of bacitracin that has left her glossy and flat.
She loosens the grip on her knockoff bag,
bothered by its imitation of an unaffordable life.
If she could, she’d snub her nose at trendiness,
the brown and gold — vague riches never suited her.

The feeling soaks into the bed of her self-polished nails,
whisper colored to get away from siren reds and schoolgirl pinks.
They brush against the locks of a man,
who, still digesting his morning cereal, sealed with an impatient kiss,
grieves the loss of his country in an unfinished war,
not clinging to things that fit inside his palms,
no reminder of the firearms he once held.
His thoughts loom larger:
he’s killed men,
he doubts religion,
he needs to see a doctor about a nagging pain,
a leaky ulcer expanding in the lining of his stomach,
settling into the sway of his hips, a tick tock reminder,
striking the man camouflaged in concrete and ash,
threads of a suit that will allow him to disappear into streets.
But for now, he is here.
His lips humming.
The sweetness of the gum he chews triggers his glands.

The shuffle to make space is a dance.
Weighted placement on a platform of electric air,
charged with the speed of subway cars launching
people to places, announced, unannounced, tired or rested.
Commitments will be met.
Time is thought to be mastered.

Teetering rubbers soles on the bumps of caution,
the last strum of a chord vibrates, runs through their blood,
counting cells and the beats of their hearts,
anticipation of a day on a job, in a marriage, in a house, in a towering building.
And in this hushed movement of unity,
The Musician has arrived at his destination.

The Dancers leave, wearing music,
taking pieces of him with them
as he collects the coins and cash they have left.

An even exchange, he feels,
and a song well sung.


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