Fear and Loathing on the Number 4

Boy on Number 4 Train

“The people here
are f—ing animals,” says hard-
creased mom to youngish son
as they slip between
double rubber, closing doors.

The boy, buzz-cut (mom holding Yankees cap), edges
uneasily through the crush
towards center pole–

Mom hooks him
before he can latch on–“These people push you,”
she snarls,
“I’ll push ‘em back.”

I try to angle smile that only boy
will see (so that the mom
won’t slug me), but boy
turns face to door where, nothing
to hold, he lists with the tight
lurches
till mom’s boa arm heavily
steadies.

Then, even as train
smooths, even as she
releases, he bangs
his head against the dark glass—-

The bangs are soft below the train’s
clatter–
now again–but
definite–now
again–eyes lowered–

Mom’s harsh lines
limp; she spans one hand
to his forehead as if
to take the hits herself–
now again–

In the jumble of next,
seat empties – I point it out–
boy sits; she smiles at me,
sort of.

Then each of us consciously
looks neither at the other or
the boy,
peering instead
through the translucence of
train fug–the rumple of so many–

***********************************

I am posting the above – a re-write- very belatedly for dVerse Poets Pub’s Poetics prompt about people watching hosted by the very good people-watcher Brian Miller.  

Explore posts in the same categories: New York City, news, poetry, Stress

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11 Comments on “Fear and Loathing on the Number 4”


  1. I really liked that. And I especially liked that “boa arm.” 🙂

    I stopped by also to congratulate you on your Honorable Mention in last week’s Limerick-Off. Great job! Limerick of the Week 81.


  2. Ah, crowded public transport… I know it well. Love the end where no one looks at oneanother – very true.

  3. Ravenblack Says:

    Very familiar scene in the subway trains in my city. Packed like sardines into the cars, people do get pushy, and aggressive and there have been little quarrels. it’s always nice to cherish a good scene or moment if one should encounter it. 🙂

  4. brian miller Says:

    nice…i can easily see this k…makes me wonder if the mom is being over protective….i like hte use of boa which sent my thoughts there…a constrictor….all too real…i also like the last stanza and your conscious choice…leaves me to think a bit…

  5. janehewey Says:

    boa arm sure brings the fear to front. the banging of the head is almost audible in this poem. fantastic last stanza and especially last line. train-fug.. so good.

  6. PJF Sayers Says:

    Karin, I could picture the scene quite clearly. The subways or trains in NYC have nothing on the Mexico DF lines, where I have encountered some of the rudest people in my life. In fact anytime I have to travel on them, I find myself very anxious.

    Pamela

  7. claudia Says:

    a great capture…def. could feel the tension between mom and boy..the head banging..ouch..hurts the soul..


  8. Brilliantly staged and cohesiveness in thought & theme! Thank you ! Deborah


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