Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Ned Balbo: "Fire Victim"

Once, boarding the train to New York City,
The aisle crowded and all seats filled, I glimpsed
An open space—more pushing, stuck in place—
And then saw why: a man, face peeled away,
Sewn back in haste, skin grafts that smeared like wax
Spattered and frozen, one eye flesh-filled, smooth,
One cold eye toward the window. Cramped, shoved hard,
I, too, passed up the seat, the place, and fought on
Through to the next car, and the next, but now
I wonder why the fire that could have killed him
Spared him, burns scarred over; if a life
Is what he calls this space through which he moves,
Dark space we dared not enter, and what fire
Burns in him when he sees us move away.

"Fire Victim" by Ned Balbo, from Lives of the Sleepers (University of Notre Dame Press, 2005).

Art credit: "Empty BC subway car," image by unknown photographer, posted on NYC the Blog (09/30/08).


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