AS THE SKYLARK SINGS
On the subway—
black man juxtaposed against a slew of Koreans.
No one speaks except the wheels
and the rails squeaking to each other
resounding like Rottweiler-sized rats.
High heels clack, the silence disturbed
as a woman enters the subway.
I am considering offering my seat to her,
but I dare not lift my eyes from the floor.
I smell the jasmine-scented oils in her skin
distinct from the reek of sweat, garlic, gingko, and ginseng
that fills the subway car.
She is wearing high boots and the hem
of her skirt is darkened with melted snow.
There among the elderly, the bundled up,
and one bald androgynous Buddhist adorned in gray,
I standout like a fly
drowning in a glass of white wine.
Or simpler put: I standout like a 6-foot-1 black man
on a subway full of Korean people.
The people of Gyeongsan Province cling
near to me without reason,
empty seats everywhere,
but they choose to pin me in
as if in effort to push me out.
A little girl notices how I contrast,
how my color slams against the cliffs
of homogeneity, how the color disperses like sea spray.
Her father is holding her in such a way
that her mouth is near his ear
so she can clearly narrate
everything she sees, in such a way
that she is the eyes
in the back of her father’s head.
At first, she looks surprised by me,
quickly jerking her glance away.
She has not decided if she will report to father
what she has witnessed.
She looks again with curiosity,
shyly turning away once more.
A third time, she smiles,
exposing the darkness left behind
by her missing baby teeth.
I smile back (I still have all my teeth).
The subway doors open.
As she is carried away by her father,
I stick my tongue out at her.
I see her giggle as she is lifted further away,
soon to disappear behind the horizon of people.
Before her father turns a corner
and the subway doors close,
the little girl waves goodbye.
That point when children learn
the concept of “yesterday,”
“thank you,” “I’m sorry” and
The days are not long enough.
The poetry, the poetry,
in that tiny waving hand.
© Copyright, 2014,