by Omotara JamesShould have asked for more, but was afraid to—Should have tied you up with those bed sheetsI wrapped around my belly, in shameagainst those words you called me, that still stick,walking through Penn Station as if it was a portalback through time, my arms folded tightly around menot wanting to touch or be touched by anything oranyone who might break the spell I cast on myself.The most valuable tool of the oppressor is the mind of the depressed? The oppressed?I don’t know. I mean, I think someone said that, I can’t rememberThis noise underground, I mean the sound doesn’t travel so well,the music distorts itself and I feel just like the bowin the hand of that busker—pressed hard against the throatof that violin that trills, not like music, but like crying: down herewhere the uncirculated air is damp with hurry and waiting.No, it doesn’t sound like crying, it just makes me feel like tearsas I make my way to the escalator that leads to the street,dragging my left foot like chalk against a blackboard.I’ve managed a small miracle of the subway, having avoidedtouching or being touched by anyone and I am grateful,as grateful as the day that you left without a kiss, a note ora thought for a woman who never asked you to love her.You just came running in my direction like someone smearedmy drawers on your nose, whupped your ass and said go!It’s a grey day and the sunlight is darker than the undergroundlightshow. I smell lamb, gyro and every legalstreet meat, make it six feet before tripping over Kassiewith a K, wearing a blanket as a dress that’s yellow nowand a scarf as a hat. Almost twisting my ankle and hers she sits,amused, on a box, with a cat swaddled like a baby. Jesus,she looks like the forgotten Mary. Eyes so huge, she could be Cleopatrawhen says, I’ll take anything, even fifty cents, in a voice so softI close my mouth and think of you, as I dig into my bag for loose change: hand her2 quarters. Her hands know she might have been Sappho. Lips so pink, maybe Helen, or Dido.She says: I’ll take anything, even fifty cents. So that’s what I give her.Omotara James is a poet and essayist. The daughter of Nigerian and Trinidadian immigrants, she lives and studies in NYC. Her chapbook, Of the Tara, is forthcoming by APBF & Akashic Books. You can find her online @omotarajames