Sleeping Together

7:08 a.m. 982 Express
Odd bouquet of soaps, shampoos, bodywashes, leave-in conditioners
Not an odor, but not a fragrance you’d purchase.
A red sun breaks the horizon.
The bus lurches off toward a microscopic downtown.
Bureaucrats, IT support, paralegals, receptionists
Hipsters having just finished their painstaking dishevelment.
We extract sweaters and windbreakers
Against the icy vents.
Capsule of humanity.
Glass and steel core sample of suburban America.
In silence we read tablets, phones, textbooks, programming manuals
Chip away at that novel.

Forty-eight squirming thought-bubbles vie for space
Above the seats and down the aisle:
Work worries, romantic speculation, political outrage
Fantasy football rankings, fervent prayer, X-rated daydreams, raw grief.

A boy and girl get on, college classmates.
The silence shattered.
He does not care to hush his voice
Or dial back his enthusiasm for her
Before forty-six eavesdroppers.
He strains to extend their conversation
Just one more volley,
Laughing uproariously at his own bland observations.
She responds just enough to spare him humiliation.
We others exchange bemused glances.
We know these people.
We’ve all been one or the other.

One by one we nod off to its ceaseless rocking
And the wheeze and whine of its engine.
To each a perfected technique:
I slump under my Yellowstone cap
One leans a temple against her window
Another’s head tilts back, mouth agape.
We sleep together
And dream the dreams of humanity,
At turns profound and nonsense.
The left and right lunging is one dreamer’s downhill slolem
Another’s tank combat flashback
Another’s sea epic.

I wake to the electronic bell,
Halting automated future-chick:
“Next stop Guadaloop … AND … twenty-fourth”
I pass the paraplegic, his chair ratcheted down
Thank the driver
Fling on my backpack
Negotiate the steps
With groggy feet.

This entry was posted in Poems.

One comment on “Sleeping Together

  1. Steve Watson says:

    Assuredly on the morning subway ride to work and often on the day’s end ride back home, Koreans like to nod off. But how deep is there sleep? Are they still aware of the procession of subway stops up to theirs? How can they know when to wake up? Or is it semi-sleep, an otherwise shared comfort zone of “I like the dream world more than the real world.” or “a community snooze together helps build unity.”, putting words into slumberous action? Isn’t it remarkable — strangers sitting side-by-side, drifting off to the same (?) world of dreams? I should send you some photos of Koreans snoozing on the subway. The other sleeping together en masse that they uniquely have is the jjimjilbang.(see for more).

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