by: Lynn McGee
For Lynn McGee, reading and writing poetry is essentially about human connection. Her work is a bridge for the reader, allowing us to travel outside of ourselves and consider both passing strangers and the loss of a loved one from the perspective of radical empathy.
Morning on the 1 Train
A child’s face is in shadow
but braids coiled on top her head
are gulped by a beam of morning sun.
Beads hum like jewels
on her glowing crown. We cross
the Harlem River,
surface calm as pewter beneath
and she reaches up to pat
the sun-baked, twisting
strands. The machine of the world
churns around her.
A couple feet below her bench,
the car’s main switch rides in a red box.
into the groove of tracks
and brakes release their low shriek.
Will she find
a tranquil chamber, someday,
in the chaos and combustion
of a life well lived?
Will she sit on the platform bench,
eating dinner from a bag,
cottage cheese falling down her cleavage,
cracker spinning from her grip —
will she have the sense
to laugh it off?
Will she sit scribbling on a pad,
letters tiny and tight,
as if the man sleeping, mouth slack,
on her right, the woman texting
on her left have any interest
in her words?
The sun has lifted itself
off the girl’s braids, and she digs
into her backpack writhing
grabs a Ziploc bag of Cheetos
and savors the poison
of routine, kicks her legs
till her mother says, ‘Stop’.
Come Home Safely
No one on the street, its gutters flooded
and fast, knows you belong in this room
guarded by totems, and diligent lamps.
The rain absent-mindedly repeats itself.
Come home safely tonight to our chaos,
walk quickly from light to light.
I listen for footsteps, the iron gate closing,
knuckles of hinges, the dark vines behind you.
They cut my sister’s clothes from her,
the scissor’s thick blade nosing
beneath her pants cuff, racing
up her leg, cold metal leaving its line
across her stomach.
A paramedic slid the pieces of fabric
from beneath her, careful
not to jostle, while her brain still bled.
Later, someone tucked her jeans,
blouse and sandals into a brown paper bag
and I noticed it slumped against the baseboard
in our parents’ bedroom, would go in there
when the house was empty
and put my face into that crumpled bag,
breathe my sister’s familiar scent —
cigarettes, hair spray,
cologne — reliving her last day,
windows down and hair flying,
radio thumping, the roadside rippling
with tall grass, a second chance,
a place to be, students’ papers bundled
on the seat beside her, one fine red apple
nestled in her satchel.
Lynn McGee is a poet living in New York City. The most recent of her three collections is Sober Cooking, released from Spuyten Duyvil Press in 2016. She is also the author of Heirloom Bulldog, winner of the 2014 Bright Hill Press chapbook contest and published in 2015, and Bonanza, winner of the Slapering Hol Press chapbook contest from the Hudson Valley Writers Center.