On a fall day when leaves against the sky
looked like curls of butter on a
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
From time to time he scribbled with a fountain pen
in a little notebook he would open and
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
shared, hung in the air between us like
Liza McAlister Williams
If you have any comments on this poem, Liza McAlister Williams
would be pleased to hear from you.