( 2 pages from a long poem in progress )

"A mother""& child""were both on fire, continuously"
"The fire""was contained in them""sealed them off
from others""But you could see the flame""halo
of short flames all about the""conjoined bodies, who

sat""they sat apart""on a seat for two""at end of car""The
ghost""of the father""sat in flames""beside them"
"paler flames""sat straight ahead""looking
straight ahead, not""moving.""A woman"

"another woman""in a uniform from""above the ground"
"entered""the train""She was fireproof""She was gloves, & she"
"took""the baby""took the baby""away from the"
"Mother""Extracted""the burning baby""from the fire""they

made together""But the baby""still burned"
("But not yours""It didn't happen""to you")
"We don't know yet""if it will""stop burning"
"said the uniformed""woman""The burning woman""was crying"

"she made a form""in her mind""an imaginary""form""to
settle""in her arms where""the baby""had been""We saw
her fiery arms""cradle air""She cradled air"("They take your
children""away""if you're on fire")

"In the air that""she cradled""it seemed to us there""floated"
"a flower-like""a red flower""its petals""curling flames"
"She cradled""seemed to cradle""the burning flower of""herself gone"
"her life"("She saw""whatever she saw, but what we saw""was that flower")

"A woman came into""the car""about thirty-seven""maybe
forty""Face""a harsh response to""what she did""had to do"
"face rigid,""but she was beautiful""Was,""we could see,"
"one of the ones who""strip for coins""on the subway"--

"They simply""very quickly"("illegally")"remove all their
clothes""Stand, for a moment""Turning to face""each end"
"of the car""Then dress quickly,""pass quickly""the cup."
"But she--this one--""face of hating to so much that""as she

took off her blouse,""her face""began to change""Grew
feathers, a small beak""& by the time she was naked,""she wore the
head""of an eagle""a crowned eagle""a raptor""herself"--
"And as she stood""& faced the car""her body""was changing"

"was becoming entirely""that bird""those wings,""she shrank to
become the bird""but grew wings that""were wider""than she had been"
"tall""Instantly,""instantly, a man caught her""A cop came"
"As if ready""as if they knew""Her wings were clipped,"

"talons cut""as if as quickly""as possible""She was released
then, to the car""to the subway""Perched""on the bar the
straps hang from"

Alice Notley

read the author's Bio and Working Notes

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