Bleary-eyed, an old man asks for change,
coins rattling in his hand. A woman
hands him saltine crackers across the aisle.
“God bless you,” he mutters, takes a seat,
and unwraps the plastic with shaking hands.
He smiles at her before she leaves the train.
Tonight, the passengers on the train
are surprisingly quiet for a change.
We are all staring down at our hands.
And then the silence breaks - a woman
cackles aloud to herself in her seat.
Her laughter travels up and down the aisle.
I overhear a conversation across the aisle
between a couple who’ve just entered the train,
and are searching for a pair of empty seats.
They’re muttering “the country is changing”
and they say they are afraid. The woman
sighs, and reaches for her lover’s hand.
I look over at a child holding her mother’s hand.
I meet the little girl’s gaze from across the aisle.
I see myself as a child too, but to her I’m a woman.
I wonder how often the little girl rides the train.
Does she long to see something else for a change -
something other than the back of a seat?
I notice a lady who has started dancing in her seat,
snapping her fingers and waving her hands,
bobbing to a silent beat. I imagine her changing
into a sequined dress and waltzing down the aisle,
giving everyone a performance to watch on the train.
I imagine standing up and dancing with that woman
and then everyone begins to dance with the woman -
we all jump up onto our seats
and suddenly we are in a ballroom, not a train.
We are tapping our feet and clapping our hands
to the music - the little girl across the aisle
is dancing with the old man who asked for change.
The train stops. We’ve arrived at my station. The dancing woman leaves the train. The passengers change and now there are strangers in their seats. I wave my hand goodbye to the little girl as I walk past her down the aisle.
"A Sestina is a French verse form, usually unrhymed, consisting of six stanzas of six lines each and a three-line envoy. The end words of the first stanza are repeated in a different order as end words in each of the subsequent five stanzas; the closing envoy contains all six words, two per line, placed in the middle and at the end of the three lines. The patterns of word repetition are as follows, with each number representing the final word of a line, and each row of numbers representing a stanza:
1 2 3 4 5 6
6 1 5 2 4 3
3 6 4 1 2 5
5 3 2 6 1 4
4 5 1 3 6 2
2 4 6 5 3 1
(6 2) (1 4) (5 3) "