Size / / /
Person sitting on a train surrounded by ghostly people

Lotus Descends to Visit Nova, ©2024 by Kim Hu

Content warning:

quiet and crystal—the Groundline’s roar
is a speed song—the pure, upright ringing
of a silent trajectory too fast
to be soundless—inside,
you can hear the train’s rush, I swear,
but not with your ears—here, beneath
New Phnom Penh Central,
where the train and I burrow past
sunless lives, only ghosts see me—

like intermittent polychrome threads,
the lights of residential cavern districts
streak the windows in spurts
between black stretches—
subterranean, I can often read—
I can less often write—but I can always
hear myself, finally, because
I’ve returned to the afterlife,
where I have the time—
the silence—
to make it up to God and self—

it’s been so long—I wasn’t ready—
the last time I leaned down into you, I was
shaking—I took the long train back, our
distance arithmetic, I was stalling—in the fact—

this particular black stretch seems
final—but it’s not—another stop,
ghosts embark—again we leave—an offworld visitor
presses her fog to the window—her fair face
hovers over the small nebula of misted glass
between her and nothing—
maybe, she sees new worlds in her
mirrored eyes—
nothing’s in her way
except for glass—but she’s waiting
for something other than arrival—
I wait with her—

given where I’m going, we may not get off together—
what’s it like to go somewhere without a cash cause
or a promise to keep—

as we pass another cavern district,
its lights turn from lines
to shapes—the train
is slowing—we enter the last
darkness before my stop—
I lay my own fog on the window—

I do want you—I elude because I do,
I prefer the route to you, I won’t understand—

in or through the glass,
my mahogany irises brighten
against the darkening exterior—I turn
and see a man in a forest green coat
sitting where the woman sat—she
must be in the restroom, and I wonder
if she needed a better mirror
for her pursuits—

the man observes his reflection
waning as the light of the exit nears—
his doppelgänger turns to me—I hold its gaze
until the tunnel’s mouth flashes—

the train emerges from underground
into Sangkat 57—a 6-kilometer-wide sinkhole,
the Surface edge visible 4 kilometers up—
the train ascends a bridge
over endless rows of houses
made of beams from decommissioned factories,
stripped hulls, salvaged engines—
each house, a rusted mosaic, is bound
to the others by sinewy power cables and
an overgrowth of foliage, vines, invasive flowers—

in the land of the living again—
I step onto the station platform
and watch the other passengers
do the same—
the pale visitor and the man in forest green
are nowhere—I look for them,
though maybe they
were never stopping here—

at this point in New Phnom Penh’s lunar orbit,
Los Angeles is a monolithic sphere in the sky,
the geometric bronze of its urban territories visible
on the moss green and pale beige planet’s surface—

Nova looks for me—
I hide in the disembarking,
I watch her
from four cabins down—
loose chili peppers tee—
cargo shorts—off white old skools—
her hands clasp—she seems
to have been waiting a while—
lucent eyes, rustling black bangs,
she taps a shoulder, then another,
wading toward the train
through the multitudes—

Nova scans the train exits—
I want to call her name—I want
to get that post-train drink we always get—
but first, I need to see her
through trainglass—I step back
on the train out of view—I watch her
from the inside—
just five more minutes, Conductor—



[Editor’s Note: Publication of this poem was made possible by a gift from Paul Rehac during our annual Kickstarter.]

Sammy Lê is a poet and bartender from Houston. He is pursuing his MFA from UMass Amherst, where he was a Rose Fellow, the winner of the Deborah Slosberg Memorial Prize, and an instructor of creative writing. He was shortlisted for the 2023 Alpine Prize in Poetry and has poems forthcoming in Poet Lore and swamp pink.
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