The 7

Mehrnoosh Torbatnejad

As we curve away from Manhattan,
when the 7 bends on the elevated track,
because of where I am sitting,
for a few seconds, the entire skyline
curls into the lap of my eyes,  

the backdrop too, violet darkening
as this Sunday evening pushes us
deeper into autumn,  

and all the buildings glued together
in the shadow of early dusk appear
more landscape than city—steel jungle,
metal mountains, each window lit
like a forest floor stippled  

by the sporadic spread of moonlight,
and although I am going home,
blues rush me when it shrinks
out of a slow blink,  

but before it disappears completely,
it seems to say, just take the train
back tomorrow, after the sky,  

the sun still touches us first,  

why romanticize wilderness  

with an assurance like this

Ars Poetica on the Subway

Mehrnoosh Torbatnejad

An empty bottle rolls from side to side,  

the train deejays a harsh song, scratch  

of the wheels on tracks, unoiled screech, 

a teenager spins, his scalp hovering,  

his legs braiding the pole like gravity  

his enemy, no one pretends unity,  

but we all float in steel, in sepia,  

a hand curled around slipping carryon,  

a man with a cane refuses a seat,  

in the corner a short poem framed,  

appears if you look that way, like waiting  

for the small star of light to pierce  

a hollow tube of darkness, a tired woman  

picks up the bottle, quiets the rattle

Mehrnoosh Torbatnejad’s poetry has appeared in The Best American Poetry, Waxwing, and Asian American Writers’ Workshop, among others. She won the 2019 LUMINA La Lengua contest and the 2016 Pinch Literary Prize, and is a Best of the Net, Pushcart Prize, and Best New Poets nominee. She lives in New York where she practices law.