“Between Stations” by Sylvi Warshaver-Stein

Sylvi Warshaver-Stein


“As a woman was being raped
while on a train near Philadelphia
on Wednesday night, riders watched,
failed to intervene and did not call
911, the authorities said.”
—New York Times

I moved to the city
to find the noise of bodies
that would drown out my own.
The train takes so long to come.
The train takes so long to come.
The train takes so long and then it
the roar in my ears
only an echo of my own breath and the slap
of sewer water lapping in the dark
like blood fills a clean toilet bowl.
My first boyfriend worked
his day job pumping gas and night
after night he pumped
in his sleep, arms working
like he was milking the earth.
Two men hold up phones
like blank dry eyes
staring me into the plastic fluorescent
seat squeaking as it pinches my skin
and drags the empty flesh
of my raw body into the rattle
between tunnels. A woman smiles
at me from the ad plastered
over the window. Her skin
has never been clearer! The car
slides into the mouth of the enormous snake
swallowing its own tale. No sound
escapes a vacuum. I hear my mother
at the other end of the telephone:
I’m fine, Ma, I tell her in the voice
of a little girl,
there are so many people here.

from Poets Respond
October 24, 2021


Sylvi Warshaver-Stein: “I read about the woman who was assaulted on the train while her fellow passengers watched. No one tried to help, although some people were recording it on their phones. I ride the train every day. Every day, there’s a new Kitty Genovese.”

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