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Sample Poems by Mark Saba

On Accidentally Touching a Stranger's Foot

On the train from New Haven to Stamford,
a wall of seat backs separating us,
while stretching out my leg

to insert my phone back into a pocket,
I hit something on the floor—a bag,
bear can, or fallen book?

No, it’s someone’s sneaker, worn out,
poorly laced, pulling back as I look up
and catch his face in the small sliver

peephole. He nods, almost waves,
and I mutter an inaudible “sorry”
before returning to my commuter’s

repose. Now we are connected;
I spend the rest of the trip
trying to catch a glimpse of him.

I feel he must be doing the same,
certain that we share a demonstrative
side, a distaste for separation

from our species. He had chosen
the facing seats, after all, while
I kept to my familiar forward-traveler.

At last I see his reflection in the window.
Dosing off? Dreaming? Wondering about everything
I think about on these long trips home?

His eyes are closed, then open; he spies me too.
I look down, away. Why?
I will never know this human.

I could stare right through him
like all the others bleary-eyed
from endless anonymity.

But as I make my way to the door
for my stop I cannot help looking
at him, and he does the same.

Our connection sealed, then broken—
A face I will not remember.
A conversation that failed to save

any bit of our lives.

To a Young Poet in Pittsburgh Who Bought a Copy of My Book

What streets you wander, and how you see them
following years of raising yourself up,
may differ from mine.We overlap

only in word, the written and the unwritten,
stories we concoct to paint our own
realities.What I offer is a model

of insistence, a hand to grasp freely
then let go.This city is steeped
in itself, its structures built

upon those tales. Some have burned out
but others await endless translation.
Build therefore the huddled mass

of time. Undo the clock; peel back
the lost curtain. Every construction
begins on the page. Every street

hangs on a name.


I used to be crazy about blues;
now they don't do anything for me.
I now prefers browns, or red.

I used to lie melancholic
on my bed, wondering
about the people I'd met.

Now I meet them so often
there is no time for
interpersonal rehearsals.

Scarlet cars have always caught my eye
and in my days of blues
I never knew where they went.

Now I drive a red Prius:
Smart, economical, and well equipped
for never-ending duties.

Some say blue bloods
are at the top of the heap
but I prefer being lost

among earthen shades
of skin. Let the blue sky
watch over us.

I'll heed the red call of beating blood.


In my little boy's dream
two types inhabited heaven:
those who had lived in cities,

he was told, wore halos. The others
wandered in semi-darkness
never sure of why they had lived

but granted the same privilege
of knowing all those faces
at once, strangers