A Woman Nurses on the Beijing Subway

by Bryn Homuth

A stop at Qianmen station—
passengers battle through turnstiles,
striding from platform and through doors,
some lucky, collapsing into a seat,
straphangers finding a hold
from a suspended row of grips. Lurching,
the subway glides as if through water,
an eel through a cavernous network
of coral tunnels. Riders sway
like the subaquatic drift of anemone.
A woman extends her hand
from a cluster of bodies, her thin fingers
cradling crumped Yuan—an infant draped
over her arm like a pair of pants when shopping,
stumpy legs dangling free
of a loosely tucked blanket, the head held up
by a latch of lips to exposed breast.
The woman’s hair hangs as if a dusted drape
faded by the light, her clothes stained
with food, spit, and grime, but her eyes—boring
down through the illuminated cab, as though
all that she sees is hollowed, as she herself
seemed hollow, emptied after each temporary fill.
A younger woman stands to offer her seat,
and surely the mother will sit, if only
to cradle her child. But she walks, sweeping
her hand beneath lowered eyes,
because every person is a chance—for a raised head,
a blind dive into purse or wallet for loose change,
a hope, that when the time comes to detach her child
from the food of her body, the mother
might place a bowl of rice on the table and sit
beside her daughter, steam rising from the boiled grains.


Bryn Homuth has had poems published (or forthcoming) in Chicago Quarterly Review, Red Earth Review, Ducts.org, and Flint Hills Review, among others. He is currently completing his MA at Kansas State University, where he teaches composition and serves as poetry editor for Touchstone.

1 Comment

Filed under Poetry

One response to “A Woman Nurses on the Beijing Subway

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