On a fall day when leaves against the sky
     looked like curls of butter on a turquoise plate
I took a subway train to visit someone whom I
     seldom see, on a line I never take.

I sat and scribbled on an envelope I’d brought along,
     as I am doing now: about a Frenchman whom I’d met
brought to tears by seeing the iconic
     New York skyline that even I have never tired of yet.

Halfway down the page, near tears myself, I recognized
     the thing that made us cry, and wrote the title “Patria.”
And halfway through the trip when I was deep
     in crafting my impassioned aria,

a man sat next to me, in tweeds and beard
     and something maybe French about his shoes.
From time to time he scribbled with a fountain pen
     in a little notebook he would open and then close.

I’m sure he read my title, in the peripheral review
     that strangers make of fellow travelers on a train;
we read each other as we ventured surreptitious glances
     from our own texts and back again.

My stop was near; he stood to let me pass, and, startlingly,
     as I was jostled toward the door, he caught my eye.
Already I felt heavy with the loss. “Patria,” the word we’d mutely
     shared, hung in the air between us like a sigh.

Liza McAlister Williams

If you have any comments on this poem, Liza McAlister Williams would be pleased to hear from you.