Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsFall 2015  Vol. 14 No. 2
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Not Far Underground

I held my breath
for the first ride back
since the panic attacks, when I tripped
the whoo-whoo button
and went phobic. My eyes locked
on the ticket taker stuck in her chamber
like a fortune-teller. The future?
That’s a one-way train.
Pay your fare and go where you like:
you can travel all night with no destination.

The city had grown ugly
in my absence. No one looked ballroom—
there was no spinning across the floor
in subway light. And the smell
of piss-stained corners
no longer proved a comedy—
I wasn’t twenty-four
and laughing all the way
at the double-take man:

Having a trip, having a trip?
Acid or weed? Acid or weed?

Who knows where he crashed
or whether the drugs hid kindness.
The concert was over,
my ears were ringing and fuzzed,
and I knew where I was
sleeping that night.

To try and recall it now
I’d have to drag a body
from the lake. I’d have to grant
entrance to the cheap theater
of my mind. Maybe you’ve seen
this picture before? I wouldn’t blame
anyone who didn’t care to watch.
I hear you have your own troubles
slapping you awake.

Flipped a turnstile, walked downstairs
and the walls and my lungs
didn’t collapse. Imagine that?
If we were seated together
you wouldn’t have known
a thing was wrong.
We shot through the tube
like an experiment. No one’s
more terrified than when
stuck in a tunnel.

I told myself it was just one stop.
Shouldn’t we all be panicked?
Don’t you have something to lose?
I only had to ride five minutes.
Got off—released and rushed
giddy into night, an easy walk
toward home and only once
looked over my shoulder.  end  

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