NR Digital

Poetry

by Len Krisak

YOUR DAYS ARE NUMBERED; YOU ARE WEIGHED AND FOUND WANTING; YOUR KINGDOM WILL BE DIVIDED AND SURRENDERED TO THE PERSIANS

It’s one year later, but the same old subway station
Stairs I step down — tread-worn, steep, and gritty.
One weight they’ve yet to bear: the fruits of renovation
Long-promised but forgotten by the city

(It would seem). They lead one down where walls
Are filmed with ageless grime and looking only slightly
Better written on than bathroom stalls.
Still, I have seen construction sites far more unsightly.

Nothing to read but bygone Outbounds ghosting through
The years, and faded taggers’ signature
Graffiti (what else can a subway Daniel do?).
Then . . . four block caps — or can my eyes be sure? –

Develop in the caked-on layers: S,
A, L, and R, beneath a finger pointing west,
Back where I came from. Now I have to guess:
This pentimento — or do I mean palimpsest? –

Apparent in the atmospheric fixative,
Emerges from the past to half-spell . . . what?
I stare till others stare, until the letters give:
Forming through oily paint, and scribbled smut

And stain, their four-square shapes predict the past:
Once, ESCALATOR stood forth, helpful, plain, and clear,
To guide us up and out. It did not last.
From moving stairs, to stairs, to what then, come the year

This station’s finished? What will be the public’s lot,
I wonder, staring. Will those thousands tramp
Their way to street-side straining up some ziggurat,
Or maybe just a dusty earthen ramp?

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