Joseph O. Legaspi

[ salty plum ]

Posters at station platforms defaced. Literally. Smiles sliced off from enormous cheerful facades of advertisements. Human face eclipsed a dog’s head, a reversed Anubis. Eyes slashed, glued over mouths—Dali retread—eyes as camera lenses; eyes being poured into a bowl of steaming minestrone; pasted on a pregnant woman’s belly. Cheeks incised with papercutter precision, breasts carved hollow. Ears severed, adhered to a wall animated into hearing the marching, rattling lives of New Yorkers. On the train the floor’s wet with spilled coffee, streaking like creeping fingers lengthening in stops and starts. I look around at passengers’ faces: frowns, downturn lips, clenched jaws. Arms crossed, shoulders tense, the palpable seething. A gruff man coughs, hacks, then violently some more until loudly he barks Motherfucker. The coughing travels and reverberates in my ribcage. It’s the middle of the work week, already we are done for. Those among us ride carrying razor-sharp blades. My heart shrivels up into a salty plum.


Found Poem: NYC Subway 

A self-guided tour of urban wildlife.
From Van Cortlandt Park to South Ferry.
Running to catch the train is a fast track
to the ER. Holy shift. Tomamos
en serio la seguridad.
Do not lean
on doors. Do not hold doors
… this degree while sitting …
There is train traffic ahead of us.
Whatever falls on the tracks isn’t
as valuable as you are. Deje
de fumar hoy!
Please be patient.
Subway evacuations don’t happen
often but when they do, we want
our riders to be prepared.


[ hibiscus ]

Two hibiscus trees carried in, suddenly, the subway car is a garden. In their pots they stand languorous like Polynesian women, their branches swaying as if they are gossiping under tubes of fluorescent light. Each tree flaunts bouquets of bloomed orange flowers and buds like rung, frayed muslin. The commuters and onlookers hear the flowers whispering and parts of them split open like the buds poised to dehisce, extending their seeded lobe releasing seeds and pollen. Trumpet in the tropical breeze. The riders are swinging on hammocks by pristine seas. Taste of nectar salivates in their tongues, and the soothing warmth of herbal tea swirls in their chests. A little girl traveler marvels at the orange ruffled petal skirts, the plants’ ovate leaves shaped like green eggs. She will escape this place of grit, metal and stink, whispering hibiscus, hibiscus.