Saturday, June 7, 2014

Poetry by Ally Malinenko

To the Men on the Subway

You can’t win.
I’m sorry to say, you just can’t win
because I know you’re trying
and I can see how hard it is
when the subway doors open
and a whole new flock of people
flood in,
weary from their job
and their life
and this city

and you frantically scan
for the elderly
or the pregnant
so that you can be a gentlemen
and give up your seat.

It’s not easy. I get that.
I certainly wouldn’t want to be in your position.
I often wonder, wouldn’t it just be easier if you kept standing
the whole time
even if your feet in those shoes
are about to cramp
and even if your back is sore from being
hunched in your cubicle all day in
that thankless job
in that nameless building
wouldn’t it be easier than having to worry?

But even with all that,
even with you taking the chance
and sitting
you still need to know
that if you look at me,
as I reach up
to hold the bar
on the train
my book balanced
in my other hand

and if our eyes meet
and if you point to the seat
and mouth want to sit down?
and I shake my head no,
and you glance at my body
as I suck in my stomach
and a little sad

You need to know that
I’ll go home that night
and throw out that t-shirt
even if I love it
because now I can’t wear it again
knowing that in it
you looked at me
and you
sort of
just a little bit
it’s hard to tell but
a gentlemen would offer
besides better safe than sorry
cause what if she is


Individual Liberty, in the American Mind, Became Synonymous with America, and Americans Consider Themselves the World’s Freest People

There is a crowd of tourists
blocking the subway turnstiles
at Union Square.
They can’t figure out which way
to swipe their Metrocard
and I’m thinking to myself,
this is why tokens were better

when the cop taps me on the shoulder.
I stare at him
a little confused
and realize that even though
I peed at the bar before we left
I think I might have to go again.

“We need to check your bag,” he tells me,
pointing to his partner
at the table.
At first I’m confused
and then annoyed
but I comply
because he’s a cop
and if he says he needs to check my bag,

It must be true.

I drop it on the table
and the female cop
glares at me,
her tight face
under her little hat
and suddenly I hate her.

“Open it. Remove the contest of your bag, ma’am.”

I sigh loudly
because now I’m pissed
and from it
pull the new jacket I bought
at Old Navy because it’s getting cold
and I don’t have a jacket
and the empty plastic water bottle.

“Good enough?” I ask
before ramming the contents back in my bag.
It’s a pretty shoddy search
as far as searches go.
If I had a bomb
I could have folded it in the coat
or slipped it in the pocket.

She doesn’t look in there
never even touches the jacket
because she doesn’t really want to know.
I’m just here to fill
the White Girl Quota for the day.

They’ve been doing this since 2005
and I’ve never been stopped.
Sure I’ve seen the police, standing like SS
hands folded, eyeing us from under their hats
but we’ve all just accepted it.
It’s the price of freedom, we tell ourselves
or those that control our freedom
tell us
and we agree.
Because we’re Americans and nothing if not agreeable.
Either way, you wouldn’t be worried unless you had something to hide right?
Isn’t that true? Isn’t that what they ask you if you protest?

“Everything okay, Osama?” my husband asks me
as I rejoin him,
now pushing past the tourists,
slipping through the turnstile
and catching the N train back to Brooklyn
just before they close the doors
thinking to myself
so help me god,
if I had missed this train…..

Author bio: 

Ally Malinenko is the author of The Wanting Bone (Six Gallery Press) and the children's novel Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb (Antenna Books). She lives in the part of Brooklyn where the tour buses don't come but was voted to have the best halal food and she blathers on at 

No comments: