Archives for posts with tag: subway

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GIVING A MANICURE
by Minnie Bruce Pratt

The woman across from me looks so familiar,
but when I turn, her look glances off. At the last
subway stop we rise. I know her, she gives manicures
at Vogue Nails. She has held my hands between hers
several times. She bows and smiles. There the women
wear white smocks like technicians, and plastic tags
with their Christian names. Susan. No, not Susan,
whose hair is cropped short, who is short and stocky.
This older lady does my hands while classical music,
often Mozart, plays. People passing by outside are
doubled in the wall mirror. Two of everyone walk
forward, backward, vanish at the edge of the shop.
Susan does pedicures, pumice on my heels as I sit
on the stainless-steel throne. She bends over, she
kneads my feet in the water like laundry. She pounds
my calves with her fists and her cupped palms slap
a working beat, p’ansori style. She talks to the others
without turning her head, a call in a language shouted
hoarse across fields where a swallow flew and flew
across the ocean, and then fetched back to Korea
a magic gourd seed, back to the farmer’s empty house
where the seed flew from its beak to sprout a green vine.
When the farmer’s wife cut open the ripe fruit, out spilled
seeds of gold. Choi Don Mee writes that some girls
in that country crush petals on their nails, at each tip
red flowers unfold. Yi Yon-ju writes that some women
there, as here, dream of blades, knives, a bowl of blood.
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“Giving a Manicure” appears in Minnie Bruce Pratt’s collection The Dirt She Ate: New and Selected Poems (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003), available at Amazon.com.

PAINTING: “Diversity on New York City Subway” by Betsy Horn, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Prints available at etsy.com.

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SUBWAY RUSH HOUR
by Langston Hughes

Mingled
breath and smell
so close
mingled
black and white
so near
no room for fear. 

 PHOTO: “New York subway, 1969” by Ralph Crane, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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I held the copper subway token up close and examined it. The outer part of the circular slug had a complex crisscross pattern imprinted on it and in its center there was an aluminum plug…The token read Good for One Fare on one side, and on the other side, New York City Transit Authority. As I held the token, I realized just how much it meant to me. When I had first pulled it out of Mrs. Romero’s sinkhole on that Saturday morning so long ago, along with the autographed picture of Carmen Miranda and a pair of sunglasses, it had, in an instant, crystallized my decision to leave Arroyo Grande. I had dreamed of New York and an acting career for years, but always felt it was a hopeless goal, a silly dream. But the moment I picked the token out of the sinkhole, my life changed. Suddenly, New York didn’t seem so far away. It was as if the token was urging me on, saying, “Yes, Julia, you can become that actress. Just go to New York! Look, here’s your first subway ride!” 

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From “Subway to the Future,” a short story in by Jesús Salvador Treviño (Found in The Skyscraper that Flew and Other Stories available at Amazon.com)