The train’s leather seats are shot,

Mustard-yellow stuffing bulging out like

Fat, jaundiced tongues. I pick

At them incessantly while I wait.


The edge of my sleeve is still a little stained

And I have the stench of arsenic

Stuck in my nose.


The other passengers are so loud.

Like a hive of wasps

Or a revving buzz-saw in my skull.


The urge to scream at them to shut up

Is so strong it hurts my throat.

I swallow it over and over until

My stomach turns sour.


Tillie always said, “It’s rude to yell.”


The train attendant is a pair of blue high-heels

Because I won’t look at her face.

“Can I get you anything, Miss?” she asks.

I coldly stare ahead until she clicks away.


Finally, finally, the train lurches

And rolls forward, wheels picking

Like beating drums on the railway.

I breathe out and sag my weight

Into the ripped seat like a shot

And bleeding doe.


I count my pulse as the train picks up speed.


I had almost forgotten what this feel like.

But this kind of fear is preferable by a long shot.

I prefer the open rail to a closed cell, waiting

To see my gaunt reflection in a steel meal tray.


They deserved it, by the way –

The guards I killed to escape.

They deserved it so much, I promise.

Tillie saw it in her dreams.


Leisa Kilby was a finalist in the Academy of American Poets contest who has also been published in TheBurg, Inked, and Fission.