Needed a place to rest my bag,
had something to put in,
something else to take out.
Crowded Red Line train, stood
in the middle, one empty aisle seat,
beside an old woman
who slept, scarved head on the glass,
worldly possessions at her feet, on her lap.
Pilled blanket cradled slumped shoulders.
Blessed courtesy not to hog both seats,
she stirred when my bag touched down.
Unwelcome intruder, I worried.
I bent to put my phone in the special
padded phone pouch in my bag. Her
stirring roused the blanket, her clothes—
the odor hit me in the face like morning breath
from a generous lover. She turned her head, opened
her eyes, lifted them up, so close.
Still bent, I struggled to liberate my e-reader
from my bag’s special padded tablet pouch.
The first thing that old woman saw
when she unstuck her tired eyes
was my pale bespectacled face
and the smile I spread across it to greet her.
She smiled back, and it was warm,
and her eyes were open, bright, and big,
and then she pushed up her sleeves
and scratched and scratched the insides of her arms
up at the crook, first one, then the other,
etching lines of piqued white into the dark brown,
muttering about all those uncalled-for
things all those foregone people had said,
all the way to Pershing Square.
I’m standing in the doorway
of the Metrolink train much
too early because this is the door
that opens right at the top of the stairs
that lead down into Union Station.
I’m much too early because the word
is out and this space fills up fast,
and if you wait too long in your comfy
blue polyester-and-Naugahyde seat
you’ll get stuck on the stairs behind
all the slowpokes and miss your next train.
I’m reading Alone and Not Alone,
by the poet Ron Padgett. See, I put my phone
away and took out the book, having borrowed
it a few days before from the university
library. The cover creaked open
with a virginal moan.
In between poems, my eye is drawn
to a middle-aged woman playing
some iteration of Candy Crush
on her phone. The colors mesmerize,
the action titillates, congratulatory
messages burst forth on the screen.
I look around and realize I am surrounded
by screen swipers and tappers, our poetry
being again rewritten, even as I put the Padgett
away and reach for my little black notebook
and ballpoint pen.
Jeff Nazzaro lives in Riverside and works in West LA. He commutes three hours each way using Southern California’s wonderful public transportation system and swears he loves every minute of it. His poetry has appeared in numerous print and online journals, including Ekphrastic Review, Cholla Needles Magazine, ClockwiseCat, and Thirteen Myna Birds.