Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Pelham Parkway on a Tuesday Night by Joseph Harker

March 28, 2011: an adolescent female Egyptian cobra escapes from the Bronx Zoo.

You might see her sliding along, painfully thin and supple,
keeping to where the ceramic wall adheres to the cement platform
in the semi-darkness. You might see her lift her head to look up

and down the tracks, sighing and flicking her forked tongue while
she waits: for this is her jailbreak, her Great Escape to see (at last!)
the sarcophagi at the Met and the cold monkeybar trees of Central Park,

to go to Times Square, and Broadway to finally see Aida, after waiting
so long. She's anxious to catch the downtown 5, and she asks you
(you, who are sitting terrified on the bench, afraid even to blink)

if you have the time, in that silky and slightly disaffected whisper.
A hint of an accent; an unspoken dare to be impolite. You check
your watch and tell her, and she just nods, wiggles her hood.

You might see her perk up as the telltale rumble quivers the girders.
You might see her sway her neck forward and suddenly
snap at something to her right, and you might catch a glimpse of

tail disappearing between her chapped lips, her throat curiously
swollen. And you think, well, that's one way to keep the rats down:
but you still creep onto a different car and hope she's not offended.

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