Panopticon by Liam Day
No, I am not staring at you.
It just so happens you walked through my line of sight
and, as our circumscribed world is simultaneously
round and flat, my gaze moves as I do.
Now, if to avoid you I slide left,
it too slides. In the business they call it panning.
You needn’t worry. I’m not ubiquitous,
nor have I yet installed cameras at intersections
to detect moving violations.
If you hadn’t shot me a look, however,
I might have directed your attention
to the opposite end of the car,
though I suspect a woman like that
could never escape your notice. Still,
plainly aware she is object,
she is equally uncomfortable in the pose and,
while the train long ago left the station
and we sway with its every lurch,
I hold out hope of unselfconsciously engaging her gaze,
to look at and through her
and have her look at and through me
and see there another world.
But the state of play prevails:
power is hard-wired;
its frequent, random surges
move, heat and light the world.
Wake up, it insists. Vain is the hope of one day
becoming the eye around which it swirls.
You will always be the dervish and,
though you ask before the ceremony they refrain,
tourists will take pictures as you whirl.
Liam Day is a graduate of the Bread Loaf School of English. He lives in Boston with his wife, Nicole. His work has appeared previously in Beginnings and Slow Trains.