Half the people

on this train are sleeping

wearing ties or black waiters’ pants, heads bowed

as if praying to a god who might

soothe the aches

of a day’s muscle-burning

standing, nodding, yes sir, just a moment ma’am, again.

Nighttime and half of us are listening

eyes shut to music that drowns out the rails singing

their screeching song and

drunk men muttering belligerent opinions

as if they were kings.

She sits behind me.

We are both reading and her eyes ache

blue on the inside, mine

blue on the outside:

I seek ways

to make her laugh again, to

bring out the light

she shields within, careful

to keep that flickering candle burning

on a windy night when darkness is a thing you can touch

when the wind rises within her,

blowing hard enough to bruise her ribs, steal

her breath

and that’s why I hug her, try to cradle

her rib-cased lungs with my skinny

moon-pale arms

keep her warm and safe from the wind

from winter

when darkness will whistle mourning songs and we

will all be sleeping

hibernating within jackets

within skin

avoiding the ice of strangers’ stares on the train

easy to slip on.

I sit

eyes closed


for sunlight to melt my eyes and bring the

shadows again, at least

somewhere we can rest