One of Us Died Today
One of us died today,
killed by one of us.
We who gather on the platforms,
jostling and pushing,
with so much frustration
and exhaustion from living in this endless city.
Usually we stake a claim near the platform edge and when
the metal doors open we nudge and elbow and board.
We sigh loudly when the conductor tells us
we are being held in the station.
We have places to go, you know.
But one of us died today,
killed by one of us.
Pushed off the platform by another commuter
as the train came screaming into the station.
Secretly we all fear this,
we stand back from the edge,
even though it is crowded because the trains
are backed up
because one of us
Killed by one of us.
In the train car we are quieter.
We think about the hum and shake
the holy sensation of weightlessness
right before the terrible snap.
I stand on the train and watch us.
There is no pole to hold
so I balance on the balls of my feet
gently swaying, a living prayer.
I close my eyes and think about
hollow bones, heavy exhale, the crack of a skull
and the smell of burnt hair and blood.
One of us was killed today, we commuters,
killed by our own,
driven to madness from the endless circling
around and around these tiny islands
the rumbling clank of our own pointlessness
proving that we do have something to fear –
But here, it is quieter,
except the teenagers who don’t understand
that it’s only a matter of time.
Even the announcements are hushed
on this moving funeral train.
We are mourning someone today
someone we didn’t know,
another version of ourselves
who might have done the falling
Standing on the platform at Atlantic
waiting for the 2 train to take
me to work.
In my ears is Tchaik and I’m reading your book.
You tell me that Pittsburgh
is an easy city to fall in love with
and I agree and think it’s easy to love there
what with all the bridges to cross.
And then I remember it’s still 10 more days
till we find out anything about Tom’s cancer treatments.
Three days have passed since we found out about Pat’s.
If we live long enough we all get cancer.
Something has to kill us
otherwise we’ll just keep going on like this.
The train screeches to a halt and I get off.
It is hailing in Brooklyn
and I’ve declared 2014: The Year of Acceptance.
By the park there is a line of funeral cars.
I run past them desperate to catch the light.
Full of Days
We had been talking about the job,
and then from the job about the families
and then from families about us.
But now we are quiet.
He looks up at the photo from our wedding,
collecting dust on the cluttered bookshelf
which also holds the pictures we never bothered
to put into albums.
There we are, ten years ago.
Ten years thinner,
ten years younger.
Holding hands and only just glancing back
at the photographer, as if we have better places
to be. A better life ahead to live. As if we can’t be bothered with ceremony.
In this picture we are so full of days.
Of places yet to go. We don’t yet know the lonely
stretch of highway through the desert to southern California
or the hills of Toledo in Spain.
We don’t know pain yet, at least not the kind that is coming for us.
“That’s already ten years ago,” he says. “We’ve already lost ten years.
You’re the only person I ever want to be around and I’m always saying goodbye to you.”
He gets up off the couch to get us another glass of wine.
I stay on the couch
my terrified heart stumbles after him
trying desperately to hold back time
like holding back a tidal wave
with only your hands.
Ally Malinenko’s second book of poem Crashing to Earth is forthcoming from Tainted Coffee Press and her first novel for children, Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb was recently published by Antenna Books. She lives in the part of Brooklyn the tour buses don’t come to but was voted to have the best halal truck.