Tuesday, December 06, 2005

On the Subway

The young man and I face each other.
His feet are huge, in black sneakers
laced with white in a complex pattern like a
set of intentional scars. We are stuck on
opposite sides of the car, a couple of
molecules stuck in a rod of light
rapidly moving through darkness. He has
or my white eye imagines he has the
casual cold look of a mugger,
alert under hooded lids. He is wearing
red, like the inside of the body
exposed. I am wearing old fur, the
whole skin of an animal taken and
used. I look at his raw face,
he looks at my dark coat, and I don’t
know if I am in his power –
he could take my coat so easily, my
briefcase, my life –
or if he is in my power, the way I am
living off his life, eating the steak
he may not be eating, as if I am taking
the food from his mouth. And he is black
and I am white, and without meaning or
trying to I must profit from his darkness,
the way he absorbs the murderous beams of the
nation’s heart, as black cotton
absorbs the heat of the sun and holds it. There is
no way to know how easy this
white skin makes my life, this
life he could break so easily, the way I
think his back is being broken, the
rod of his soul that a birth was dark and
fluid, rich as the heart of a seedling
ready to thrust up into any available light.

By Sharon Olds


Singapore’s main subway system is known as MRT (Mass Rapid Transit). But there is also another subway system known as LRT (Light Rail Transit) which serves as feeders to existing MRT network. I have to take these 2 systems in order to reach my workplace 5 days a week, and each trip takes more than an hour. Thus each day, I spend more than 2 hours traveling in trains.

It is kind of boring if you have nothing to do during those 2 hours. Occasionally I take short naps but I tend to snore when I fall asleep. So I try doing things that will attract less attentions to myself such as reading poetry books. But sometimes it backfires because in this country it is rare to find anyone reading a poetry book in the public. I’ve yet to encounter anyone doing so.

Besides reading, another favourite pastime is analyzing my fellow passengers. I love to guess what’s going through their minds, read their body language, etc. If I am lucky, I might encounter some interesting characters such as a man singing loudly to himself, a young couple in school uniforms conducting research on "Public’s tolerance level towards French kissing in the public" or children who can't decide if they are humans or monkeys. Cool.

(Updated on 10 December 2005)


Fred said...


Bluesky_Liz said...

I try to read on the bus. Usually I would end up staring out the window.

I hardly take the train, anywhere. I just can't take the crowding and the shoving.

Alson Teo said...

I find it difficult to read on the bus. Most of the time I ended up having headaches. :(