Woman on the Train

by John Hicks

                                                On the 5:32 a.m. BNSF to Chicago

At the Lisle stop, their breath hangs in the air
like empty thought balloons as they shuffle
toward the boarding doors.  She takes the seat
across the aisle from me, slides over to the window. 
At Downers Grove, she checks her watch,
pulls her cell phone from her purse. 

             Hello, Sweetheart.  Are you already awake? 
            How are you feeling?  Good!  Did you sleep well? 
            I laid your school clothes out for you on your chair. 
           Don’t forget to brush your teeth.  Will you do that for Mommy? 
           That’s my girl.                

The Hinsdale station flashes by the window.  We’re an express
to Chicago now.  Everyone around us sleeps, heads pulled into scarves,
into coats against the cold.    

            Your breakfast is on the counter.
             Be sure to put the milk back in the fridge. 
            Yes, I miss Daddy, too. 
            Yes, I know.  Me, too. 
            Me, too.
            You’d better get ready now.  Mrs. Hennipen will be there soon
            to walk you to the bus.  Don’t forget your key.  It’s on your necklace. 

Brookfield passes.     

             I love you, too, Sweetheart. 
            Have a good day at school.  ‘Bye.            

Clutching the phone like a talisman,
she leans her head against the window;
falls asleep, nodding slighting
in the lights of the stations we pass. 

John Hicks is a New Mexico poet. He has been published or accepted for publication by: South Florida Poetry Journal, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Bangor Literary Journal, Verse-Virtual, Blue Nib, Poetica Review, and others. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from University of Nebraska, Omaha. Stella Bellow is an illustrator currently attending Parsons School of Design in New York City.

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