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Oct 2016
Having lost her forever,
he steps off the escalator
into hard sunshine, drops
to the sidewalk and caves—
a troubadour whose songs
have been dismantled
by the sadistic hands
of a subway conductor.

Guitar strings slip his fingers,
and nothing will bring her back.
Not a song. Not a psalm. Nothing.
Not the angelic back
of his leather jacket,
spanned by a score
of safety-pins formed
into silver-studded wings.
Not his listless body,
tattoo-inked and wrecked,
blue quarter notes slinking
down a tight treble clef,
wires stretched across his neck.
Not his mind, spinning
in a head blue-veined
and stubble-shaved.
Not his angry steel-tipped boots.

He lost his love because he looked.
One by one,
the silver pins
have come

far below
the sidewalk,
banished forever,
she slumps cheated
and dispossessed
in the vinyl seat
of a hellbound
subway car crawling
with scorched graffiti,
spray paint-scrawled
filigree spelling her doom.
Ghost of a snake bite
below her knee.  

Mohawk depressed,
she leans against
the train window.
Dead glass reflects
a chorus of piercings,
steel threaded through
skin so translucent
her veins and arteries
glow blue and red:
mapped subway lines
circulating misfortune,
coursing with dread.

The train rattles along rails
encrusted with gems and bones.
Disgorging sparks and smoke,
it thunders into stygian gloom,
ferrying her to a heartless god.

What if her shadow
had made a sound?
A backward glance was all it took
to squander a lavish second chance.

High above his beloved,
awakened by moonlight,
Orpheus regains his senses
and gathers the guitar.
The case flung open
at his boots awaits a drizzle
of tossed dollars and coins,
piteous currencies of loss.
Hard pick between thumb
and finger, a downstroke
strum delivers plaintive
waves of power chords.

The song ignites
a crowd of women
in tight band t-shirts
and skinny jeans,
smacking cherry gum,
their flaming hair
casting embers
upon night air;
radiant specks
like lighters
in a sunless

Spurred by his song,
the covey of maenads
coalesces and attacks,
enraptured, enraged.
A rush of bodies,
the crazed crush tears
him limb from limb,
splits him to close to cipher,
until what remains of the star
on the sidewalk is his heart:
the four-chambered *****
held in a hundred hands,
picked up and packed
into the red plush lining
of the grisly guitar case,
golden hinges snapped shut.

Entombed in coffin-black
chrysalis, the heart pauses
like an untouched drum—
a dormant instrument
awaiting metamorphosis
that, like Eurydice,
will never come.
Jonathan Witte
Written by
Jonathan Witte  East of Georgia Avenue
(East of Georgia Avenue)   
       Elizabeth, ---, Valsa George, David Adamson, --- and 16 others
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