ribs

            charlie and i don’t have
much time so i follow them
on the subway
            (the one train, it buys us a moment)
            and from my perch on their shoulder i
watch it empty –
draining into ninety-sixth,
clearing its throat at city college.
            (we are the only two people in the
            world who know that
                        the traffic is a receding tide that
                                    will wash us bare in time)
at this rate by the time it reaches

            the north border we’ll be alone
the thread is tightening around
the carriage as the slack
            reels minutes like
fish.
and there is quiet in the
            centrifuge’s axis,
            with my head on their shoulder
until the emptying car is
                        split

                        in half
            by the scythe of a
woman opposite us
who has judged us:
                        too queer for her taste
            glaring at me with intent
a spring compressed
            so that, cartesian,
i try to doubt
            everything that branches
            as an axiom from her gaze –
until i can’t, because the
scald is not accidental – even
when i make eye contact she
                        does not dim the accusation
            and i think she is less like a
            spring and more like a
                        homing missile,
            her kinetic energy digging up
                        dogbones of guilt that I
                                    thought had decomposed

            charlie sees and points it
            out to me, in a whisper –
and under that searchlight
            all i can dig out of the
defensiveness, shame
            is indignation on
their behalf, because
            i know what she’s thinking,
            and they’re not a girl

i’m moving opposite home for a
time capsule, to give space to an exhale
            and i think that’s sweet
and i don’t know what abscess she
rakes with her talon eyes
when they tell me to take my head
off their shoulder

                        the train moves aboveground and the
                        ribs are showing to the satellite sun –
            we take up too much space;
i take up too much space.

Montana Azzolini is an American poet and student. Originally from Hoboken, New Jersey, she can now be found either at Whitman College or somewhere uncontactable in the Central Rockies attempting to commune with the mountains. She is up to no good.

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