They Let Me Pass
On the sidewalk up ahead
Under the belly of the bridge
Is a man with a painted-white face.
His hands, too, are covered in white paint.
Did he want to see if he could white
himself out of existence? He is crouching, rocking
Back and forth, praying. I have seen enough
Horror movies to know that this is end-times.
I get out my phone to pretend to call someone,
But I end up just silently pressing the dark glass
To my ear, as if it could somehow mute this man
Vibrating under the belly of the bridge. He does not
Register my presence, and these are not end-times.
Four men emerge from the dark with beers
And it is end-times again. Until they, too, let me pass.
I emerge with a red ear and a palpitation. They let me pass.
A mantra: They Let Me Pass. they let me pass. They did.
The belly of the bridge swallows them whole,
Like they are Jonah in the whale.
Maia Siegel’s poetry has appeared in Polyphony Lit, Cargoes, the AIPF (Austin International Poetry Festival Youth Anthology, The Claremont Review, and elsewhere. She has been recognized by The Poetry Society and The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. She will attend Interlochen Arts Academy in the fall, after winning their Virginia B. Ball scholarship.