Winter Commute

Dear friend, asleep
upright in a seat
when I boarded the train
goat-stepping over
your legs outstretched
why didn’t I wake you
but instead watched
you sleep, watched over
you two seats away
but, no, merely
watched, still
life, face
no longer fresh
but a peach
sweet even
as skin loosens from
flesh flesh
from pit those little
wrinkles you can make
with a thumb-press
kissing the outer
orbit of your eyes
the longer lines
down crescent cheeks
your jaw relaxed
lips parted neat
compact woman’s
body buttoned up
in business darks
foggy gray
starched contrasts
at neckline & cuff
what reprieve here
shuttling underground
before the courted
client you must meet
is met you’re floating
somewhere where
the car’s cold rays
can’t reach, absorbed in
other versions, in-
version of a life
as when we watch
children sleep
so far from us
we don’t dare wake them
in the uncontrollable
are you back there now
in your own deep new
episode without
pillow or comforter or
parent standing over
you at night but for
a few minutes at peace
with stolen rest
hurtling motionless
forgive me for not
sitting down beside you
placing a hand
softly on your tailored
arm to call you back
when all I could have
offered: weak pleasantries
phatic discharging
of routines impositions
variegated surfaces
of elected obligations
what does one
owe another
in common
what comfort what
welcome release
rehearsed in
the dark, dark clad
friend, foe,
Proserpina or Pluto
roles all play
in false fundament
decked out in
eye-open finery
embroidered so
elaborately it’s ripped
right off our backs.
That afternoon
when my stop came
I left you suspended,/span>
in your frail respite
and haven’t seen you since.

(From The Figure of a Man Being Swallowed by a Fish by Joshua Weiner. Copyright © 2013 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.)

(To return to the Winter 2014 Table of Contents, click here.)

Joshua Weiner is the author of three books of poetry. He is also the editor of At the Barriers: On the Poetry of Thom Gunn. He is the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award, the Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a 2013 Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, among others. Josh has been on the editorial staff of Tikkun since 1987. He teaches at the University of Maryland and lives with his family in Washington DC.

Source Citation

Weiner, Joshua. Winter Commute. Tikkun 29(1): 72.

tags: Culture, Poetry   
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