Waiting in the subway
minding your own business
listening to Sister Sledge


The train speeds by
hits you
in the face
with dust
warm rodent fecal-laden dust

You hold your breath until the doors slide open
You walk in – scrambling indecisively for a seat
and it smells

The most curious of smells.
Your nose points in every direction.


It smells like unbathed skin and stale scalp and hopelessness
and old cigarette smoke and poor circulation and you can’t help
but inhale because you wonder how
suffering could have a smell.

Questions and Answers

How/where do you find inspiration today?

When I have a moment of awareness and perceive irony in a situation, the challenge of articulating the irony inspires me. Irony can be found anywhere you point your nose: reading the news, watching Netflix, or during your morning commute.

What poetic techniques did you use in this poem? How much attention do you pay to form and metre?

I did not pay attention to metre in this free-verse poem. I wanted to overwhelm my reader’s senses by making the first two lines of the seventh stanza noticeably longer than the other lines in the poem. Using polysyndeton to congeal literal smells (e.g. “unbathed skin,” “old cigarette smoke”) with figurative ones (“hopelessness”), I continued to fuse the literal with the figurative by using synesthesia in the poem’s concluding line.

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