“A Separate Set of Signs”
A woman boards the overnight train,
her bag packed with rolls of candied
hawthorne and bouillon cubes.
A bulb in the station leaks its weak light.
Does she glow from toothache
or the loose sea winds,
is she heading to the capital
with no papers or is she someone’s
negligent daughter, the youngest of three?
Is she me having stayed behind,
a parallel life with a separate set of signs
and a diet of more rice, less white meat?
Is she dreaming of the rivers
soft with codling in her hometown;
when she wakes on the train car
mattress is her shadow straighter?
Does she feel a body larger
than her own dilated boundaries,
and when she looks out of the window does
she sense the city as closer than it is,
the light having met the smokestacks,
and her hunger small and neat?
This poem originally appeared in Narrative Magazine.