Railway Child

Arwin Shams Siddiquee

Wayside wanderer, raggedy
Stood out by the streetlight
Sniffing glue in the company
Of those skinny neighborhood strays;
They crowd around thinking neither less nor more
Of that gently-swaying shell,
Pale white like fine porcelain, both skin and bone.

Prophet of that busy intersection
Preaching ignorance to those less fortunate
Passing by in metal pods that rumble like the dragons in his dreams
Or like the grand steamers that sail –
Billowing gray clouds from vast vents,
Like smoke from a giant’s clay pipe –
In his afternoon cup of tea.

Butterfly of a cinder block meadow
Flapping wings of worn cotton,
An old t-shirt in the wind,
Waiting patiently as the light changes; and hastily thereafter,
Chasing some specter in the shade
Like a daydream as the colors fade –
Another whiff, and off again.

Passenger of that decrepit train
Whose wheels won’t feel the rails again,
Staring out through a well-placed skylight,
Curled up in silk sheets of make-believe
Like a Cheshire Cat in a willow tree, watching.

The lights don’t hide the stars out here.


Arwin Shams Siddiquee

Contains implications of abuse.
Reader discretion is advised.

there are creases on the plastic covering on our old dining table,
and it’s yellowing softly in a few places
because my brother is a messy eater,
and the stains he leaves sometimes are more permanent than mum’s exasperated scoldings.
the stains and creases are here to stay, it seems.

there’s a little burn mark on the armchair in the living room
because my mother can be a little forgetful sometimes
and the hot bit of a mosquito coil keeps moving.
but it’s only a little mark, and no one really notices
except when you know its there –
like most small imperfections.

the switchboard on one of the bedroom walls is still cracked
because my father can’t hold in his anger sometimes.
at least it’s not another one of the fancy mugs
mum likes those, i think, for tea.
but mugs can be replaced;
switchboards too.

Permanence illustration for Arwin

the tiny inkblots on that one tee haven’t washed off and that’s alright
because i haven’t sketched with ink in a while,
and reminders are nice. like tiny time capsules
but only if you were there when they were buried,
and some version of me was.

the scratch mark on my cheek is still there
because even as an infant, my sister had had a strong grip
and it only got stronger. i’m glad her hands grip art supplies now
even if they’re used on my notebooks sometimes.
the colors are there to stay.