A starch-collared warden will soon enter
and announce with a breath of silver whistle,
Last stop, all out.
Where does the empty train go?
Toward what alternate universe does it judder
with invisible passengers
whose crumpled hands rest in their laps?
A mother smooths the crinkle out of her young son’s outer knit
while a man reads a newspaper with rapt attention.
Only after our stares make them uncomfortable
do they acknowledge us with a look
altogether surprising in its harshness,
as if from a parent burdened by all they know.
The sternest no. Our time to follow
has not yet come.
Anthony Tao’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Kartika Review, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, and the Anthill. He currently lives in Beijing, where he edits the news/society/culture blog Beijing Cream. Follow him on Twitter: @anthonytao.