Something Like An Imperial Gaze

by Dena Rash Guzman

That gypsy looking woman, that squat, frog faced thing
with her 25 boxes of shoes stacked tight and neat
on the train – she saw us joking about her.
She knew. “Touch them. I dare you just to walk over
and touch her shoes.” Bally.
Fake market bound, and she had lugged
them onto the Metro all alone like an ant at a picnic
with an entire chocolate bar. You pushed
me just a little. “Touch them.” I could tell

she’d have shanked me right there
if I’d dared. Maybe this was honest work,
schlepping this moveable
counterfeit underground, through the whole
of Shanghai, around and around. Maybe
the train gypsy understood us and found
us to be tacky, unbearable. “Touch them,”
you said. “Do it.” I nearly did.

Instead, the subway stopped,
the doors opened and in flash she and
her shoes were lightning gone, snow
in May, just a thing I saw

on the Metro, like I saw lovers reading
a book together or a mistress screaming to her
lover on a phone or a baby in training pants,
peeing near his sleeping mother’s feet.