Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

“Watching a Woman on the M101 Express”

Kamilah Aisha Moon has earned fellowships to the Prague Summer Writing Institute; the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts; Cave Canem; and the Vermont Studio Center. Her work has appeared in the Harvard Review, jubilat, the Oxford American, Lumina, Callaloo, among other journals and anthologies, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. A Nashville native, Moon holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College and is the author of She Has a Name (Four Way Books). “Watching a Woman on The M101 Express” first appeared in Sou’wester.

Watching a Woman on the M101 Express

You sit in a hard blue seat, one
of the ones reserved for the elderly
or infirm, a statue of need. Your mouth

open as if waiting for water or medicine, as if
mugged mid-sentence, or some ice age hit
right after terrible news.

Oblivious to the Metro’s bump and buck,
to the toddler begging in Spanish to be freed
from her stroller, to my ogling, you sit

embalmed, raccooned or moosed. You have
the kind of eyes that never quite close,
even in deepest sleep, lids

an undersized t-shirt that leaves belly
exposed. Tears navigate moles, veteran
swimmers of your creek-bed face.

I can’t stop looking. You can’t get over
whatever has happened, so shell-shocked
that birds could land and roost. I want to ask—

just so you know someone
is paying attention, but not enough
to know what ravages. It’s rude

to stare. I’m from the South, a suburb
where Grief pulls the shades first,
stays home if indecent. But

your sorrow struts four rows down
from me, strands you an astronaut
on some distant, undiscovered moon.

Bodies to your left and right read papers,
nap, send text messages. You sit in a hard
blue seat, mouth open. I study the pink

of your jaw, and wonder if you’ll come back
before your stop comes.