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by Maria F Rojas, 2024


Trying to be the only smile around 

Radiating sparks from my pearly whites, 

receiving nothing but frowns 

Standing in a crowd of a hundred 

on the subway car 

Madness inspired by frustration drives people 

One train car containing nothing 

but stories full of pain 

The daily cortisol

of rushing down the stairs 

Probability of falling: high 

The need to catch the next train 

surpasses the risk 


Different lives packed together, 

not one familiar but tightly squeezed 

All random strangers with ongoing thoughts 

Closed by the border of their mouths 

They see, think, 

then quiet down out of fear of society


Many facades, 

only locals detect sincerity 

The fear when a homeless person walks by


reminds me of the police report on the news last night 

about five stabbings in the train 

chills in my body 

Constantly investigating body gestures, 

seeing if my car will be the next victim

No other choice but to take that same system 

because it’s 2.90


The innocent questions of a baby New Yorker, 

“Where is the 6?” 

Compared to “Where is Port Authority?” 

From the pickpocketer 

with angry expressions

The face tells a story, 

the words deceive

One learns to differentiate 

with the scars of scares 


The inaudible words murmured across my seat 

Unable to pinpoint a face, 

none to see, looking down, 

typing away their souls

A phone takes away the power of talk 

No social interaction, 

so we befriend technology 

No hellos, no sweet asks, 

no, please, and thank you 


When walking into the subway, 

reality hits

The hidden truth opens up 

when the subway doors unlock 

A new future at every stop, 

walking in to meet what lies ahead 


The wave of regret strikes 

when there’s an emergency stop 

and my mind remembers my fight with my mom 

last night

Flashes before my eyes 

I’m suffocating with strangers in a metal box 

No way out, no touching the third rail, 

no oxygen 

Too many rules

to remember when a disaster strikes


I’m trapped 

I’m living in a nightmare 

I’m just trying to get to school 

I have a math test next period 

I’m running late, 

cutting it too close to that first bell 

My mind forgets s=rθ, 

occupied with escaping a possible end 


The agonizing moment 

of being left under the Earth 

with people who aim to hurt 

I need to yell 

but I must hold my composure to save my life

I want to hold onto someone 

and not this cold pole

Someone who can comfort me, 

but who are these people? 

Their eyes full of sorrow, 

overwhelmed by deadlines and schedules 

No one seems to care until death is facing them

One turns their attention to the tiny red light, 

ignored until it’s the last sign of hope 

A red button can’t save a life 

It can dictate to others when it’s about to be taken away

But, yet again 

this is a regular 8 AM routine

*The unfortunate adrenaline* 


What has life become? 

The mysteries of the NYC subway are held in my mind, 

all close deaths 

none successful at taking my life in a breath.