—for Joseph O. Legaspi

And when you whispered under your mask, I don’t think I can stand these two young lovers, bright as the low winter sun shining through the dingy subway car windows, I knew what you meant: maskless, giggling, boy holding girl by the waist, taking selfies on a gray seat made for two. We sat across, letting their tenderness reflect on us: her back to his chest making a hearth of their bodies while the train snakes its turn over the elevated tracks. Hi-rises loom over gentrified streets, the graffitied walls, a sign for $0.99 pizza—how old neighborhoods create a new belonging. Nothing jostles these two as they attend to their own happiness, not the train’s hard lurch, its rumble and squeal, this couple at the beginning of their desires, you turning to me with your brown eyes in the day’s last light as we approach our final stop.

January Gill O’Neil is an associate professor at Salem State University and the author of Glitter Road, Rewilding, Misery Islands, and Underlife. From 2012 to 2018, she served as the executive director of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival. She currently serves as the 2022–2024 board chair of AWP.

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