by Tom Mangione


I am consumed by subways.
I say I only ride them.
They take me where I go.

But late at night it is more
It’s more than that for sure

I stay up late at night
Knowing I take the subways
And the subways take me.


Substitute subways:
A girl in green
Eye glasses on her face
She could be the one
But she is not the one

I see her running with me
A perfect face in autumn
Her skin so smooth I do not feel it
I simply think that it’s there
And it’s there, closer than close

I see her again and she is changed
Her green looks worn
The eyeglasses magnifying awkward eyes
She is not the one
And she will not be the one.


Subversive subways:
A man with an immense belly
Rotting ginger teeth
He looks like he moves the world
But he only moves air.

I see him leading an army
All of us facing rubber bullets
Using our immense bellies to stop them
We don’t talk of injustice
Because with our bellies bare
There is no injustice here, or anywhere.

I see him again and he is changed
His belly looks too well fed.
His teeth spiraled with the smoke
Of industrial banquets
He stands full like a pillar
But I know he is hollow.


Subtext subways:
An announcement
A language that is not my own
The garbled sounds are familiar
But I don’t hear their meaning

These sounds are suddenly clear to me
They are revealed like walking into a cave
Hidden behind a waterfall
Treasures shine in the mist
Grasped by soaked hands

I hear the words again and they are changed
An announcement
Follows in my own language.
It’s so clear I cannot ignore it
The first syllable cuts my marrows.
These foreign words may give me their meaning
But they will never slash my heart.


I am consumed by these subways.
I cough; I sputter.
I kick; I run.
I pray; I curse.
I shuffle; I moan.
I demand; I wait.

I wait.
I wait

For these subway lines to end.


Sublime subways:
Maps of colors and numbers
The names of places I’ve never been
They sound like promised lands
But I know they are gray.

I see an immense city rising from the Earth
It pulls springtime inside itself
An immense structure of never-ending crystal
That drinks up the sun
And sleeps in eternal warmth.

I see the map and it is changed
I close my eyes before I can say how
I don’t want to look any more
I will close my eyes and think of those places
Those places of crystal and light that cannot be
And for a moment of two
I will pray that the subways will take me there.