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On the Metro

October 8, 2015

By CK Williams

Published in 2005, On the Metro is one of CK Williams’ later poems. The subject is risky – an old man admiring a younger girl – but look at the care he takes, with each long line, to make his meaning clear. I think he succeeded. He died on Sept 20th.

On the metro, I have to ask a young woman to move the packages
……..beside her to make room for me;
she’s reading, her foot propped on the seat in front of her, and barely
……..looks up as she pulls them to her.
I sit, take out my own book—Cioran, The Temptation to Exist—and
……..notice her glancing up from hers
to take in the title of mine, and then, as Gombrowicz puts it, she
……..“affirms herself physically,” that is,
becomes present in a way she hadn’t been before: though she hasn’t
……..moved, she’s allowed herself
to come more sharply into focus, be more accessible to my sensual
……..perception, so I can’t help but remark
her strong figure and very tan skin—(how literally golden young
……..women can look at the end of summer.)
She leans back now, and as the train rocks and her arm brushes mine
……..she doesn’t pull it away;
she seems to be allowing our surfaces to unite: the fine hairs on both
……..our forearms, sensitive, alive,
achingly alive, bring news of someone touched, someone sensed, and
……..thus acknowledged, known.

I understand that in no way is she offering more than this, and in truth
……..I have no desire for more,
but it’s still enough for me to be taken by a surge, first of warmth then
……..of something like its opposite:
a memory—a girl I’d mooned for from afar, across the table from me
…… the library in school now,
our feet I thought touching, touching even again, and then, with all I
……..craved that touch to mean,
my having to realize it wasn’t her flesh my flesh for that gleaming time
……..had pressed, but a table leg.
The young woman today removes her arm now, stands, swaying
……..against the lurch of the slowing train,
and crossing before me brushes my knee and does that thing again,
……..asserts her bodily being again,
(Gombrowicz again), then quickly moves to the door of the car and
……..descends, not once looking back,
(to my relief not looking back), and I allow myself the thought that
……..though I must be to her again
as senseless as that table of my youth, as wooden, as unfeeling, perhaps
……..there was a moment I was not.

CK Williams

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