• Veronica Taylor

The Singing Man

The L train smells like burnt popcorn and sour milk.

Strangers Wait.




They used to before the masks.

I don’t hate the subway.

It's not my safe haven,

But I don’t hate it.

It was just a part of the routine.

Get on.

Stare at the stops on my phone until its mine.

Get off. Nothing interesting.

Maybe a man will try to talk to me.

Maybe he’ll try to follow me

to wherever I go.

“Pretty Brown Skin Girl!”

I don’t look.

“Pretty Pretty Pretty Thing. You don’t hear me?”

Maybe someone will walk in

and ask the train-

“Ladies and Gentleman, I’m in need of help

[Insert Back story Here] anything. Anything will help.

God Bless.”

Most don’t answer.

A few pass change

and cash.

I never have cash.

But this one time,

I should’ve had cash.

This man,

brown skin, grey hair, and dingy clothes.

He could be my father's age.

He walks in stumbling,

holding dunkin donut cups.

They still had a bit of coffee in them.

“Excuse me everyone!”

No one looks.

People don’t look.

“I’m gonna sing. Sing a song.

Imma sing a song.”

He bends down and starts playing his knees

Like drums.

Bobbing his head.

“I’m going to see the cross.”

He sings.

So Good.

He’s good.

His voice reminds me of church

at home.

He’s good.

And I imagine,

maybe he used to play the drums

at church.

Maybe he was a tenor on the choir.

I think it was a Baptist church.

It was a Baptist Church.

You only get that voice in a Baptist Church.

I don’t have cash.

God, I wish I had cash.

I thought,


he used to go to church every sunday with his mom too.

But maybe he decided that wasn’t for him.

Maybe he wanted to be a big singer

and mental illness or drugs took that away.

So he sings

the songs he remembers.

Does everyone hear this?

No one's looking.

I won’t look too.

I don’t have cash.

In the south,

We drive passed.

People don’t think about it.

People holding signs.

I never thought about it.

Dad Would say

“Lazy asses. Shit, I ain’t got no money either.”

In New York,

You walk passed.

Close and personal.

I think now.

He finishes and pick up his Dunkin cups.

“Thank you. Anything, anything will help.”

I wish I had cash.

No one looked

as he walks between us,

stumbling around with his cups.

I didn’t look.

A man pulls into his pocket.


The singer,

once happy goes sour.

“Man, Stop the games!

I’m too old.

“ He gone put his hands in his pocket

actin like he gon get me something.”

He’s sitting down a few feet a way

talking to me now.

I’m not looking though.

I should’ve looked.

I should’ve had cash.

I can’t tell him I don’t have cash.

He stumbles away.

He Starts mumbling

then he says.

“Niggas go round here talkin bout

Black lives matter. Black Lives Matter.

Black lives matter?

Black Lives ain’t shit.

Black lives don’t mean shit.”


We do matter.

We do.

Black Lives do mean shit.


How do I tell him they do?

After we all ignored him?

After whatever he’s been through?

I wanted to say something to him.

“You matter to me.

I don’t know what’s wrong,

But if I could make it better,

I would.

I don’t got money on me,

I don’t have nothing for you,

But you matter to me.”

But I think

He woulda sucked his teeth

And said

“You just like that man,

Acting like he got something to give.”

He woulda been right.

I had nothing to give.

So I stayed in my seat

And stared at the stops on my phone.

The subway doors opened.

He left.

“Black lives ain’t shit.”

Black lives ain’t shit?

Maybe not to him.

Maybe not to others.

And sometimes not to me.

“Black lives ain’t shit”

Black lives ain’t shit.

I should’ve had cash.

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