Subway Pome #59: a note to the girl I put on the 6:44 J train this morning

Ascending the flights to the platform
where I know I can catch the J train
the sound of my steps on the stairs
echoed behind me
like I was being followed by Borges’ chimera,
a shadow
haunting your trail,
perpetually
just out of sight,
changing color,
changing shape

and when I stepped closer to the tracks
I saw you falling off
your sweaty hair
mopping the sultry warm wooden bench
the day getting swampier,
this part of town still nasty enough,
Saturday morning still early enough
to be nasty
and sweep away
a sleeping girl
in a partied dress,
your sparkly shoes
looking like the ones my
darling
little three-year-old girl wears,
you kicking
almost the same ones
in your deep snooze,

my daughter whose memory shuffled me away
from my self-preserving quiet
controlled desperation
towards you,

the J squealing in,
a few ladies from the neighborhood
watching you, shaking their heads
see me
walk up
look at the conductor,
look at you,
trying to make sure
no one thinks
this Flaherty Frankenstein
is going to
kill you,

“Excuse me, miss,
do you need a cop
or
DO YOU WANT TO GET ON THIS TRAIN?”

I watched you
stumble up,
out of
maybe no dream at all,
you stepped on to one car,
I looked at the conductor
and got on
the next car back,
checked you out
through the subway-glass window
nodding into an older man’s shoulder
and we all rode together,
sparkly shoes
my chimera.