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Anxiety in August

Tim O'Connell

I sit in the back of the train
The last two cars packed
On a Friday evening in August,
The close of a burned-out summer.
Underground the darkened
Window betrays me,
A body hollowed out,
The thinnest reflection wavers
As if in black water,
An unidentifiable concern
Roils in my chest, like a snake.

Too many displaced, too much
Talk of an invisible enemy
And dueling ideologies
That make worm’s meat
Of the human heart
And heroes and martyrs
Of sons and daughters
Of the supportive constituents,
Who do not question
The broken systems of belief
Which pay dirt with dirt.

Near me a faithful few
Swoon over warm tinned-up beer,
Talk about lawful things,
Practice their golf stroke
And finger their wedding rings.
Nothing thus far has been said
Of the previous year’s dealings,
Which kneecapped a generation,
Sent the passionate ones home,
And nailed a black tongue
To the door of Eleven Wall Street.

Down the aisle, I see
The conductor taking tickets,
Talking to those he knows
Smiling at those he doesn’t,
His voice is soft and measured,
A man practiced in the art
Of the casual goodbye, moving
Among the passengers,
With no destination of his own,
Just a day’s work
In between here and there.

A clunk and a clack
And we all sway together.
The sun’s last rays cast
A golden mean across our faces,
With impossible light. Outside,
The landscape is a disappearing act.
The city’s industrial grip
Slipping with each moment,
The spirit of a thing seen,
And lost to movement,
Which is nature’s only condition.