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It’s that wet concrete smell that lingers
pooled into corners;
a cigarette butt or two
maybe a soggy tissue
or crust of mouldy pizza
that settles just below nostrils.
You want to itch, brush it off
but haven’t a free hand
clutching your plastic bag
and ticket in the other.
The stink and grime and metal handrail
all ready to transmit
the stink and grime of everybody else
and everybody else is everywhere
brushing up against your side
your nerves, coughing, talking
loudly on their phones
filling up spaces
with stale sweat business shirts
hair sprayed heads and round bellies.
Even on a cold day, air is rank and humid
in the bowels of the subway
with the sharp tingle of iron
that laps up body oils, farts back
metallic fumes into over-peopled air.
So, you suspect the curry may not last
- could be a gastric gamble
if you miss this next train.
The platform, now so crowded
people edging closer to the yellow line
with all their curries, milk, and Caesar
salads, trying to get home.
And no one is beautiful in this train.
Shoulder to shoulder, pore to pore
even the young and soft
so toned and tanned, but close up
with congealed globs of mascara
in the corners of their eyes
or acne rashes rubbing collars.
You close your eyes: dream of soap
and fresh air as you count
down to destination.
And do it all again tomorrow.
Kate Maxwell is yet another teacher with writing aspirations. She’s been published and awarded in Australian and International literary magazines. Kate’s interests include film, wine and sleeping. Her first poetry anthology, will be published with Interactive Publications, Brisbane in 2021. She can be found at https://kateswritingplace.com/publications/
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