Previous Feature: James Kowalczyk

James Kowalczyk was born and raised in Brooklyn but now lives in Northern California with his wife, two daughters, and four cats. His work has appeared in numerous publications both online and in print. He teaches English at the high school and college level.


Subway Etiquette 1

West 4th Street-Washington Square Street Station
the A train going uptown at 2:30 am
I board, scan the empty seat theory in play
and assume my position
maximum distance
from the other four solitary strap-hanging souls
already in the car

86th Street
the proverbial lost tourist
big brown suitcase in hand
stands alone
looks at each of us
our eyes meet his
a nano-second
from our reading

125th Street
Trouble One and Two board
eyes scan 360
body language belies hostility
brown suitcase oblivious
approached on both sides
in a blink from the corner of my eye
a shock of red
his nose bleeds onto his white shirt
brown suitcase snatched

145th Street
doors open
Trouble One and Two exit
doors close

next stop
168th Street


Subway Etiquette 2

GG train going to Coney Island
pulling into Smith-9th Street Station
summertime baseball practice destination
one other passenger on the middle afternoon local
asleep and swaying like grain stalks in the wind

Trouble One and Two enter
sweep glance and glare
I seep into the corner seat
bulging pocket on grain stalk attracts Trouble
they sit on either side

Trouble One nudges . . . nothing
nudge . . . nothing
Trouble Two straight razors grain stalk’s pocket
Jacksons, Grants, Benjamins in a thick wad

next stop 7th Avenue
Trouble One and Two exit


Subway Etiquette 3

A train express uptown going to
my mid-morning college class
in a semi-crowded car

at 59th Street a five-percenter
in white skullcap and white robe gets on
and solicits his black soap, incense, body oils
and propaganda, looking left and right at select clientele

I am in the corner seat reading
as he nears
he makes eye contact
smiles briefly
I look down at my book

other world aromas
as he stalls before opening
the door to the next car
I look up and he says:

“Don’t I know you?”
his eyes search my face
“I don’t think so” I say
“Yeah, yeah, I know you . . .
you the devil”

he goes through the door
next stop
125th Street


All Hail! If you happen to be a California resident, and you’re looking to get hitched, Minister Kowalczyk of the Universal Life Church is here for you. All couples welcome.  Click on the image below to learn more . . .

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