“Souls on Métro.” A Poem by Alice Notley

From the Collection The Speak Angel Series

February 22, 2023  By Alice Notley

No one could stand it the métro was so slow later halted a man started
Strumming a guitar making patter I couldn’t hear how could
There be room for a guitar I should be like him tell you things I’m
Shy tried remembering a dream of a language of spontaneous irregular spirals
Did I even see anyone our ridiculous eyes I remember when my vision started to
xxxxxx blur at age six
I thought I was effecting this change deliberately I still wonder
Why would I have done that pushing mentally at my eyes as they worsened
Maybe they hadn’t seen right was I asking them to see more not less
The new sight would be subtly different as you joined with what you saw
My sight blurred more I felt my way more and with glasses then contacts read
xxxxxx constantly
When I was in my thirties my retina detached I began to see street lamps as crooked
We didn’t have any money then I wasn’t examined for three weeks
Waiting for the street lamps to straighten up why not
After the surgery in the hospital I gathered my wits to go on seeing
With a worsened left eye I still find street lamps crooked
I don’t know what’s really out there I’m still working on how to see
I’m tired of having separate senses though or of the idea of senses
I wasn’t really looking this morning in the métro adorable Jewish child
Alone glasses and Orthodox hat dark coat bewildered by the train’s refusal
Ladies in skirts and weirdly toed stilettos I’m always looking at the feet
Greying men wearing dignity the train wouldn’t run for them though we all saw it the same
xxxxxx way it wasn’t working
It’s just a train you’d say ephemeral I’d say I’d say souls riding nothing much
In no real clothes blurs on their way to some imagined location anyway


speak angel series

The Speak Angel Series by Alice Notley is available from Fonograf Editions

Alice Notley
Alice Notley
Alice Notley has published over forty books of poetry, including (most recently) Benediction, Negativity’s Kiss, and Certain Magical Acts. She has received many awards including the Academy of American Poets’ Lenore Marshall Prize, the Poetry Society of America’s Shelley Award, the Griffin International Prize, two NEA Grants, the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Poetry, and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. She lives and writes in Paris, France.

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