pay machines and turnstiles in Paris subway

Waiting in Erebus

Here in Erebus, frigid waiting room outside the gates
of Hades, a water cooler gurgles. On the wall, a 1966
NASA calendar. A shifty-eyed Kit-Cat clock ticks
its tail. From somewhere, Goin’ Down Slow plays
on repeat. We drum fingers on the arms of vinyl
chairs, our fingernails brittle and methylene blue.

Teeth clacking, we sneak glances at one another,
guess by mark or remainder the falls
that brought us each here: a lit match, husband’s
belt cinched around his two-timing neck, lover’s
cliff-diving shove from behind, icicle driven
through the soft parts, bad breakup with a timber axe,

hands pocketed when we could have lent help.
We, the undutiful and indifferent, the decomposed
& disarticulated, don’t look back. We thumb
through People, cross and uncross our bony ankles,
suck on Lifesavers, wait for our names to be called,
for a door to open, for that first blesséd blast of heat.