This morning a man was struck by a train.
Attention passengers: because there is a man
struck at Fifth Avenue, all trains are running local at this time.
Stand clear of the closing doors, please.
“I wonder” becomes a cloud—a thought bubble—
Anna Karenina’s one wild leap.
Yesterday I captured the full moon above Royal Queen
in the cloudless dark sky with a quick snip double take.
I was walking and thinking to myself, There is no art here.
Or “Western” art, anyway. My last trip was to see KUSAMA:
at the Botanical Garden with you. Along
with you-know-who, who turned cray cray.
Relationships—like clouds—are fickle,
receding like snow on a glistening day.
Preoccupations sprout anew in the silvery sheen
on the octagonal walk, patches of light dimmed.
Planes take off low from the JFK, and at Mets Willets
this morning, the Chinese wore Canada Goose parkas
as we shove our tough love to pack the train because
every single one of the multi-colored pack of us
feel it, this intimacy
caused by grave injury.
Step all the way in, passengers in the front section,
the conductor yelled. I have no need to cower
because I will not be beaten here. I look out the train windows
and absorb the sky I never have time for,
until I learned there is the sublime in the acre where we live
if only we looked deeply.
Step all the way in the rear section, he calls again.
In the nameless middle, my back leaning on
not the door you’re thinking of—
the door between cars—
as I regret not having gone on the other train.
Yes, “Next Train: Local”
during rush hours meant train delays.
There is so much information I must hold—
There are only so many people this train can hold.
Let it go so the other can come in.
The beauty of the street scenes dappled with the vigor
of the working class, whose pay will be docked for lateness.
At 74th and Broadway, Corporate America
more omnipresent than Mister Omicron:
We the huddled masses yearning to get to work on time,
pushed left and right.
There is another train three minutes behind this one.
When you said you’re going to be on
Colored People Time, I feel that’s because you have worked hard
for White people to finally trust you, two decades later.
You stood up for me with the debacle of my supervisor
having me pour her water, again and again.
Back then when you asked me if she treated me badly,
all I know is to hide my tears inside my pockets.
I have left early to have time for myself, and now this.
I would be lying if I say I never thought of leaving
the legacy of exclusion and broken promises behind.
Back then, all we could do was eat, shit, and money.
Deposit and spend money in takeout places where we die.
We must get it done, the Cantonese nonchalance
at throwing away food versus the black-hearted
food poisoning of Fujianese greed.
Grandpa Pindar sent me a picture of his canal, the Gowanus,
the tug boat shining in the moonlight.
He tells me the coal tar sitting at its bottom calls out to him
like a Siren to a sick dog.
I love the Gowanus through him.
I love how the world doesn’t know of the luster
in the river’s metallic sheen
in the moonlight as he stands alone in the dark
or our rabid desire for victory,
before the Roman candle explodes,
or how dear they are, how dear you are to me.
I was so worried sick, I didn’t complain at all this morning.
Let this train leave the station!
Leave us space to trample with our own shoes our little mad hopes.
I’m at a decent Rubenesque rotundity for a super-sized nation—
too large to change the course of my path at Flushing Main.
We’re old pals now, dead and sick people that cause train delays.
Someone got hit by the 1 last week when my friend and I went up 125th
where we took in the gentrification and the way
the unseemly above-ground subway tracks resisted change.
The neighborhood resists change, through eminent domain,
like the interior garden in Skyview, away from the factories.
At half capacity now: Attention passengers
there is another train two minutes behind this one.
The conductor forgot in our prime we’re asking for plus,
we’re asking for now. We’re asking for before.
I have no idea who did the urban planning
that extends beyond Times Square to Hudson Yards.
You see how that blood flows in me,
the blood that thinks that it feeds the center of the universe.
After Grand Central, the next stop will be 34th Street.
Take the train right behind this one.
We arrive at Bryant Park where the passenger was struck
and my mind went first to the water fountain,
how I must hold it with my quivering hands
for the motion sensor
take in my humanity to fill it to the brim,
before turning on the water boiler,
so the steel underneath doesn’t burn
the way memories never quite fade,
the way the scorch
of the burn remains.
I can still see the look on the supervisor’s face
who found herself done in by an unwelcome surprise,
because Master passed through the JFK, not Ellis Island.
They have forgotten to tell her that on my 18th birthday,
I took this train to join
Master’s tribe of one.
I wonder where God went, all these years, when she absconded
with money in the middle of the night.
Boo hoo, crybaby, God might say,
you never told Mama as she held you
how you wanted Sodom to burn as Carthage burned
the way for years your skin burned so and cannot stand the touch of fabric.
Just how much proof is needed to change the way she was offered twice as much as you?
How could that ever be okay, even as another test of faith?
You tell me to keep our mouths shut
and let them laugh.
I flip through photos I’ve sent you and I see how the evergreen
emborders the Thinker with a snowy cap,
the rage for perfection, not just an immigrant thing,
but driven by the phobia of being praised insincerely.
Master tells me: it is never about falsifying time sheets,
it is about the deep hurt
from rumors that reverberate in caverns,
stinging the ears of its hearers like bees.
When the Academy talks of Communism as panacea, I see
the dilapidation: tree-stripped barks, cauldrons of dog soup.
We are all servile to the system:
When someone dies, my friend and I pantomime
a cut on the throat and laugh heartily:
We are still here.
The aggressor taunting the solicitors yesterday
gave a bright boy a word of advice:
You know how you can best help the poor?
To not become one of them.
Before he fled, he asked money from everyone but me
and the boy with the pimples on his forehead.
Standing waiting for the 1 the day before with Mama,
I told her at least I didn’t get shoved towards the track.
Yet, Mama said.
Tiffany Troy is the author of Dominus (forthcoming, BlazeVox) and the chapbook When Ilium Burns (Bottlecap Press), as well as co-translator of Santiago Acosta’s The Coming Desert /El próximo desierto (forthcoming, Alliteration Publishing House), in collaboration with Acosta and the Women in Translation project at the University of Wisconsin. Her reviews and interviews of emerging and established voices are published or forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, The Cortland Review, The Los Angeles Review, The Laurel Review, EcoTheo Review, Rain Taxi, New World Writing, Hong Kong Review of Books and Tupelo Quarterly, where she is Managing Editor.