By Matthew Hittinger


“This is a Broken-bound N train” inter-
com crackles on the train across the way
              middle tone low tone
              doors close reopen
halfway a stuck soul on some other car
ahead or behind but not our car not
this time we wait shapes and mates wind descend
card swipe replaces coin clink the turnstiles
              spin their faces ghost
              the etched plexiglass
wheel creak blur sudden lunge and a woman
stumbles unlocks her knees as those we left
behind pace the platform shores unsure when
if another train will come to ferry
              them under the East
              River how many
stops until they return if they’ll emerge
the last station light eclipsed and we pick
up speed water drips on the blind man’s knee
he slides down the scratchiti-etched seat F-
              U-C-K headlines
              the U-S-A clear
fingertip deciphered letter mark drip
on a page of The Waves where a fire-
fly alights traces a figure eight lifts
popped wings off to the plastic covered light
              the blind man touches
              a black match its white
head a fleck a gray seat speck Mr. Head
Phones dislodges two AA Dura-
cells licks either end his tongue climbs raised plus
bump probes the minus’s shallow divot
               the door from the next
              car opens a man
shuffles through sells AA batteries
blue steel key hooks from a beat-up Eastpack
“I like your necklace,” he says to the red
head she touches her neck’s bronze octopus
              “I like your ring,” he
              says to the seated
dreads who forms a fist and lifts his silver
square as if a king waiting for a kiss
“It’s handmade.” A boy plays takes a yellow
straw feeds a plastic Saint Bernard a girl
              slips flat on her back
              the slap like the slap
four black boys make against the door ceiling
floor flipped and mock-kicked as they rap and roll
wake the stone-faced stand-and-sit commuters
“Ladies and gentlemen,” the littlest
              begins “we’re sorry
              if we frightened you…”
but we’re out the train climbs to Queensboro
sun jump transfer unticketed rider
stretched across the orange and yellow seats doors
open most flee “Stand clear of the closing
              doors please.” “I’ll make it,
              I’ll make it!” body
bisected an arm a leg this side red
cheek green tweed glass-pressed platform-car divide
caught pulled four power plant shafts pierce the etched
plexiglass VERSE SET EDGE IMP THUS greet us
              here on the other
              side this raised concrete
stop where purple and green oil the pigeon’s
neck feathers where a coiled rubber band
intersects a corroded AA
Duracell battery the missing grout
              chunk filled juiced where lights
              doubt their glow and cast
a human shadow here where the platform
ends and a gold phone dangles off its hook

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MATTHEW HITTINGER's titles include Skin Shift (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2012) and the chapbooks Platos de Sal (Seven Kitchens Press, 2009), Narcissus Resists (GOSS183/MiPOesias, 2009), and Pear Slip (Spire Press, 2007) winner of the Spire 2006 Chapbook Award. Born and raised in Bethlehem, PA (not far from the grave of H.D.), Matthew did his undergraduate work in Art History and English at Muhlenberg College and received his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan where he won a Hopwood Award for Poetry and The Helen S. and John Wagner Prize. Matthew has received the Kay Deeter Award from the journal Fine Madness, two Sundress Best of the Net nominations, and nine Pushcart Prize nominations. His work has appeared in over fifty journals and magazines and has been anthologized in Best New Poets 2005, Villanelles, Divining Divas: 100 Gay Poets on the Women Who Inspire Them, A Face to Meet the Faces: An Anthology of Contemporary Persona Poems, The Rumpus Original Poetry Anthology, and Love Rise Up: Poems of Social Justice, Protest and Hope. In recent years Matthew has worked with a number of artists in other disciplines on collaborative projects, including video artist Liz Stephens, the painters Kristy Gordon and Judith Peck, and the composers Randall West and John Glover. Matthew lives and works in New York City.

One response to “Styx”

  1. […] new poem is up at The Nervous Breakdown, “Styx” from my Impossible […]

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