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On the metro platform after lung surgery

Huda Haque

CAS for Database

Morrisville, North Carolina, USA

Panther Creek High School


In this pale aluminum tunnel,

the four of us float like ghosts,

silent, on our own paths

our bodies seen or not seen

depending on sunlight’s angle.

The waiting characters include

the staples tucked underneath my sternum,

slits pockmarked into my side,

the man in the seat over,

and me.

I hug my chest,

watch cigarette smoke worship

the bends of skin in his fingers, flapping

in the graceless jerks

of vultures who realize they

can now stop searching

for dinner. He’s holding a book,

and I imagine it’s a

bad one, waste of a living tree,

of its life,

so it’s okay if I pray

for it to catch fire,

crumble into charcoal ash,

to let him hold a future mirror

in his hands.

Then, a phone call that thrusts

glee into his face, so much so that I start

to envision the shape of his words,

how he will tell whoever’s at the other end

“look how hard I work to take

myself away from you,”

and “this book I’m reading

is so great that I want it to end

sooner, in nothing

but dust.” His train

arrives, and I watch him

drift into a car, disappear

into his next day of chosen smolder

until my chest

stops aching.


Through the unique juxtaposition between the speaker’s lung surgery and the man’s relationship with fire, this poem paints a haunting, otherworldly narrative about human nature and the experience of life. The language itself draws a stunning balance between descriptive imagery and confessionalism, and provokes meaningful thinking within the reader even after the poem’s conclusion.


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