Underground

by Len Krisak (September 2012)



His toes aspire to the station vault,

The lace gone missing from one pointed shoe.

That this might not be anybody's fault:

A thought that for the nonce will have to do.

Meanwhile, he sleeps beneath a tattered plaid

That might have blanketed a horse, the stench

Enveloping his laid-out form so bad,

No patron will go near the skinny bench.

The madly tonsured skull lies cosseted

By plastic shopping bags that show the care

Somebody took to prop one ragged head;

Their puffed-up contents crib a shawl of hair.

The shoe still laced has loosed whatever bow

It knew, and now must show the sole undone.

Who would have thought an old man’s peeping toe

Had so much blood to dry and crust and run

Again from one black suppurating sore?

Surely not those who wonder at the gall

Of someone who, so deeply gone, could snore

Away the world, his face turned toward the wall,

And countenance the “D” train, distant once,

Now hell-bent on announcing its arrival

In time to drown the wheezes, rales, and grunts

He greets it with in somnolent survival?

And yet that livid vital sign gives proof

That after all is done, but little said,

Mere life has come to rest beneath this roof.

The train roars out to wake some other dead.


Len Krisak has published in The London Magazine, The Oxonian Review, PN Review, Standpoint, Agni, The Antioch Review, The Sewanee Review, The Hudson Review, The Dark Horse, Agenda, The Hopkins Review, Commonweal, Literary Imagination, The Oxford Book of Poems on Classical Mythology, and others. His latest book is Virgil’s Eclogues, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010

 

 

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