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Listen: the squealing melody like someone’s baby as the train

       lumbers into the station.

I am listening to a song but I can barely hear myself

       listening.

What are you writing about?

Nothing and everything at once.

The last best test of existence.

The cry the wheels make as they begin to brake.

So many songs that sound like someone shouting.

The young men who keep leaping in front of the train.

The conductor who can’t pull the brake fast enough

       to stop the train.

The people watching them soar

       like magpies into the air under

       the archways, their ankles

       holding fast

       to the crowd’s last glimpse.

Crossroads.

That was a song I often in childhood.

I am listening but I can barely hear you.

Perhaps because the city is suffering

       once more

       from a metabolic disorder.

Head on head.

They are gathering at the entrance

       with petitions and placards.

Writing, waiting.

Desire has a gift for implicating itself.

Your touch pulls a trip switch in my throat.

Mice shrieking down the black, iron track.

Wherever they disappear to.

Without resemblance.

What are you writing?

Whatever lives on the other side of a dollar.

The man half-asleep and raggedy and hungry

       holding his heart

       in a sack

       on the bench.

Nobody watches him fly, little magpie: listen.

The blues sweating through the phone’s radio.

What is the name of that song?

Everything at once.

One for sorrow, two for mirth.

They are gathering on the platforms with drums in their hands.

That rhythm is the kind that makes me dance.

Waiting, exhaling.

Only in the darkness could I feel myself.

Are you listening?

I know a song that is written in breath.

A blues as bright as molten lead.

Sometimes when you enter me I can hear

       the truth.

What are you writing?

Under, under.

Three for a wedding, four for birth.

On the other side of the hidden doorways

       when the trains

       used to run.

Not that tunnel, the other one.

Often in its darkness I could dream myself.

Are you listening?

Dog whispering down the gray, iron track.

The live-long day.

Where it’s darkest under the archway

       it’s harder to see me.

The future is no longer trying to steal away.

Life at the beginning of the end

       of the tunnel.

Somebody’s heart on the seat beside me.

Waiting, breathing.

What were you writing?

When we enter each other we cry

       out together.

The last best test of existence.

An old woman holding fast the hands of a lover trying

       to leap through the next window

       of his existence.

It is possible we are all suffering

       from a metabolic disorder.

That rhythm is the kind that fills my pants.

I am not sleeping, just listening.

Can you hear me?

Static.

I have no more dollars to hand out, so I offer

       you my skin.

You never sang that song or the last one.

The first blues, hot as a brand, is the best one.

Playing the track with imprecation and agony.

No one is listening, they can barely hear me.

Gathering everything left on the bench.

I am writing nothing, nothing at all.

The train is approaching like a past mystery.

The lovers retreating quick to the wall.

The man rising and steadying himself

       as if called by a bell.

The brakes as they slide into their blues-like squeal.

The chanters growing louder in their appeal.

The young man who announces this is his final ride

       on this train.

My heart is so close you can hum its refrain.

I am inside, starting, singing.

What I am writing:

Hold fast, my ankles.

John Keene is the author of Annotations and, with artist Christopher Stackhouse, Seismosis. He teaches at Rutgers University–Newark.

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