José Angel Araguz


When the man begging
on the train begins
his penitent’s stumble
and sway, the car thrusts
into silence. After each
of his God-bless-you’s
I feel myself bend,
neck yawed at first,
then fully craned.
The heads of others
bob and tremble
when he passes.
Were he to catch fire,
would I move,
would anyone cower
at the breaking light,
would anyone bother,
open their eyes to see
the hand of the god
whose hammer clanks
and clangs in rhythm
with the rattle
of the train
buckling along
in the dark.


When something like this breaks, it means
we must swarm around the narrow
stairway, our steps slower, the pace
set according to our sighs. Each
glance and gesture becomes a word.
My looking down and waiting speaks
to the old woman next to me:
after you. All the stars left in
the sky, all the calls and blinking
messages, the wintered sorrow
of all passing thoughts must now wait
until we are level again –
wait as we take turns returning
to our lives. When something like this
breaks, it means the words I wanted
to write before are different from
the ones I have got down for you.
These words are older than you think.


José Angel Araguz is a CantoMundo fellow and the author of six chapbooks as well as the collection Everything We Think We Hear (Floricanto Press). His poems, prose, and reviews have appeared in RHINO Poetry, New South, and The Volta Blog. A current PhD candidate at the University of Cincinnati, he runs the poetry blog The Friday Influence. A second collection, Small Fires, is forthcoming from FutureCycle Press.