1. Is it Safe?

From the corner of my eye

to my left

a holy Jane

rocking wildly

mouthing what?

prayers, chants?

white granny hair flying out of order

white streaming eyes

some disembark

some board

the doors seal and then unseal

for a woman

lunges at us

nimble though plump

maybe years ago she led

a netball team

and today her captain’s voice

rich Island

‘Jesus

‘God

‘the conductor is a good man

‘bless this man’

We all know that benediction

the conductor’s hands

on your brow

holding the journey

for one slacker

for you

The train’s racket crescendos

ahead of Franklin avenue

I stand to embrace the pole

hostile my back against the rocking woman

a woman’s cry

‘she’s having a seizure’

turns us to look mute

at the eyes

fluttering

in deep sleep

in a night terror

fists pressed tight

containing the djinn spitting within

The captain flies

crouches before the sick woman

hands grab hands

face presses face

‘I’m a nurse how do you feel?’

the rocking cannot stop

but the eyes

for a second

open

to nurse

she says

‘Bad’

A second caregiver comes

and in a beautiful

sync

together lift the sick woman’s feet

and lay her on her back

doors open

for the rush

to the conductor’s window

end this journey

paramedics

seizure

nurse and carriage

I walk

climb

escalate

ascend

to the street

where it is not safe

 

2. Is it Safe?

The doors stay shut at 168th

Where haven’t I been today

BX

BK

LIC

uptown again

going home

getting close

we smell the smoke

see it seep through the vents

a little girl

adolescent is the first to scream

climbs up

pushes on

pulls down

bodies

a Mom’s voice

arrests her flight

‘That’s enough now

‘the smoke’s outside

‘calm down’

The firemen on the platform

are slow and easy

we are holding our phones

but nobody documents our last moment

Mom says

‘Cover your mouths with your scarf’

and some of us do

I smell my body’s

wet soil

under

eau de parfum

and I am heady

entering my cave

hot mouth

in my shirt

we move on

cutting through fog

towards someplace

safe