When it rains we sing Aretha Franklin in the kitchen
and become Amazons, women with dark arms and bulging muscles,
Rockette legs under sweatpants and nightshirts.
Our bare feet dig into the floor, and every time we step the tiles shake and shimmy
our heads throw back and we belt out what we need to over the roaring of the sky.
The coffee cups on the counter dance with us, half filled,
and the knives in the dish rack are still dirty with meat.
All across New York, down the rails of the six train and toward Central Park, through the tambourines
of Greenwich Village,
everyone watches the street lamps and feels the raindrops heat up, 123 and then the clouds start to
When the lights turn off we pause for a minute, chests drumming, then through the pitch black cuts
Mama’s voice and Aretha comes back into the apartment,
and we all join in and dance in the dark.
Waiting for the 4-5
The man in the subway, I am sure, is a genius.
He scribbles and spray paints the words of his prophecy
onto the rats, the discarded tokens of yesterday
when people still wore top hats, and no one had seen a burger.
Every now and then he looks up and catches my eye
then looks back down; my presence does not affect him, no
intricate study of a life can make yours noticed.
Even children, playing house and decorating their bodies with glitter and fingerprints
have no words to describe a face they have never seen.
I’ve seen all the faces of New York;
each hunch-backed man dragging a plaid scarf through frost,
each village artist with easel and gaunt cheeks,
everyone with a metrocard or a cigarette or a tshirt with too many words
or no words at all.
As the train roars up into my skull I think of
Western Canada, a place my pride would never let me travel to
but still, where the air is pure and
the Northern Lights dance around the apartment buildings.
In Canada new features are abundant,
fresh wide faces with clear skin and high brows,
blonde hair and brown hair and red hair and hair that stands in rainbow spikes,
colors I’ve never seen before.
It’s a plane ride away, hours from street signs and walk, don’t walk,
and I’d settle for Coney Island or New Jersey’s white houses and tall trees.
The subway-riders glance up when the doors open, then let gloved hands return to the pages of a
newspaper, a magazine,
to the screen of a cracked cell-phone that isn’t reaching anything anyway.
They’ve seen me before, too;
they all know that I’d get off anywhere at all, and
that I’ll stay seated at every station the train pulls into.
Maya Lockman-Fine, Age 16, Grade 11, The Dalton School, Silver Key