A woman reads on the Underground
as it drags like a match along the tracks.
A woman wearing a handkerchief linen blouse
on the hot train reads a thick book
about World War II and bites her lip.
A young girl stares at her as she does this.
A girl who sits on her suitcase at the car’s end
with nothing to do but stare at the woman’s
head as it tilts toward the book,
her blunt cut hair, the drama of her face
as it acts out the words.
The words unknown, of course, to the girl,
except for what she can see in the angle of brows,
the pinch of lips, lashes flickering
the way signal lights
pull a train along
beneath the pages of city above.
Images float to those hungry for them.
That’s what they say
and that’s why some angle off
to an old lady at the other end.
A white haired lady frail in her thick coat,
in spite of the heat, who glances full of longing
at the blonde hair of the girl
squinting past her down the car.
This is how it works and always has, just like a fax.
Heat transforming text into text
and the certainty of response:
mysterious as the memory of a young girl’s
first awakenings to the world
as she hunches in silence with strangers
under the ground while London burns.
Please note: Poetry is compressed to fit smart phone screens. If you are reading this poem on a phone screen, please turn your screen sideways to make sure that you are seeing correct line breaks for this poem.