I was slouching against a tile wall
tinted greenish by bomb-shelter fixtures
that didn’t so much cast light as chuck it.

The fluorescent glare crashed to the floor
and tumbled to a stop where the shadows gathered.
I needed distraction.

My gaze got hold of a kid, typically teenage,
erupting with acne and awkward and eyes
on somewhere that was not.

His untypically teenage expression
showed the wretched tension of a suburban mourner
watching a lover’s corpse sink into the dirt,
Keep Things Dignified.

As there was only one other,
a businesswoman with a marble-set face
and a suit creased like knives,
the kid had all my attention.

The halo of the subway light
arced around the bend of the tunnel.
The kid clenched his fists and took
a step toward the gap.

With an artist’s intuition I knew
what was to begin in the next five seconds
the revolting noise of bones shattering
screams and shrieks of metal—
bored policemen take spartan notes—
the Tribune article (page B7)—
the nonsensical note on the nightstand—
the condoms left sanctified in a dresser-drawer—
the thin, pale index finger with its chipped
nail polish dials the number
for a 24-Hour Compassion Hotline(TM)
it had trailed over, printed
on a funeral home’s business card,
as though hoping to braille out why
it had to slide open the envelope flaps
for Special One-Time Offers addressed
to the three-days-deceased.
I would type a thousand words per footstep
that would tap every vein of anguish.
I knew the taste of 200 milligrams
twice daily and the touch of lukewarm snot
against a cheek
against a pillow
against a bed
filled with sobbing.

I could name the day and hour
when that single synapse misfired
and the instincts malfunctioned.

I had seen the setrilized celebrity
teeth thrusting from sex-swollen lips
that stabbed up and down as they whispered,
Good is not good enough.”

I would write him a more fitting ending
than this.

I would save his life
from underwhelming.

A wind the scent of piss-soaked
newspapers and stale grease
roared into the station.

He reached his sullied, greying
sneaker past the yellow stripe and
into darkness.

I sucked it all in.
I waited to exhale.

The businesswoman snatched his collar
to heave him back from the precipice,
cushioning his fall with her body,
like an embrace.

I was disappointed.

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