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Paul Hartal


He saw her at the subway station
Standing on the platform waiting for the train.
Inside the car they sat in front of each other.
She was quite young.

Though not strikingly pretty
She was good looking and attractive
And he liked her back-combed black hair.
It was long and lustrous and gathered into a chignon
And softened with a purple satin ribbon
That matched her elegant blue dress.
She wore high heeled black shoes
And her ivory skin shone on her comely legs.

The train moved and stopped
And moved again
At the stations the doors opened and closed
And people streamed out and in.

She sat quietly in her seat
And then opened her purse
And pulled out a candy
Wrapped in golden paper.
She removed carefully the wrapping
Put the candy slowly into her mouth
And then folded neatly the paper
And put it back into her purse.

He watched her discretely for a short while
And then closed his eyes
And when he opened them he saw
That she cast a timid glance looking at him.

He liked her.
He wanted to start a conversation with her
But somehow it just did not seem appropriate
To address a complete stranger on a train
And besides he was afraid to say something silly.
So he remained silent.

He wanted to say something to her
But he did not have the courage.
And then suddenly he panicked
Because he realized that he cannot speak
That he cannot pass through the invisible barrier
That extended between them

That despite her presence
He cannot reach out to her
That he is unable to have her in his life
And that they soon will get off the train
And he probably never will see her again.

The car wheels
Kept clacking and rattling over the rails
And they both sat silently on their seats
Two lonely islands in a withdrawn crowd.

Then the subway pulled into a station
And it was time to alight from the car.
Without saying a word
He walked through the door
And across the car window he saw her.
She was looking at him.

The train began to move slowly
Along the platform of the station
A moving image melting away
Like an ice dragon in the heat of summer.

In a few seconds it vanished
Into the thin air through the dark mouth
Of the subway tunnel.

Submitted: Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Edited: Saturday, April 28, 2012

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Poet's Notes about The Poem

'Subway' has been adapted into a short film by Iris Dekker in the Netherlands. She selected the verse for the 'Adopt a Poem' project of the Department of English at the Free University of Amsterdam. The film was released on the Annual Dutch Poetry Day on January 26,2012, and can be viewed on http: //www.youtube.com/watch? v=FAlglBH0Za0. Ms. Dekker discovered the poem on the Internet. According to her 'this wonderful piece of art' about unborn love is 'perfect for a short film' and the script follows very closely the poem.

Comments about this poem (Subway by Paul Hartal )

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  • Freshman - 1,963 Points Valerie Dohren (7/18/2012 1:39:00 PM)

    Fascinating story, but sad that a potential relationship never had a chance due to lack of courage. Good write. (Report) Reply

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