James Tran – A Collection of Poems

My hair is undone.

It had been blown around by a strong breeze.

It’s been tossed and spun around in an acrobatic way

So that it stands upright at the top of my head.

My bad hair day seems to take inspiration from my job.

I see, young person. I know you’re not in my position.

So imagine this.

Consider this.

You made a house with playing cards.

It blows away in the wind.

You worked so hard to make it. You toiled for hours and hours under harsh fluorescent lights

And made sure that everything was perfect, just perfect.

Pay attention to me when I’m speaking.

And it is swept away in two blinks of an eye.

How did you feel? Did you feel… sad? Disappointed?

From that look, you probably feel uninterested.

Now you understand. 

Just now you comprehend.

I was a victim of a wind more powerful than I was.

A shrieking gust, a hurricane of circumstance.

Please listen to me.

Do you know how much that hurts your heart?

Being a witness to the harsh winds of fate?

Everything was blown away in an instant.

Just like how my hair, which took many hours to perfect, to get down,

Was undone with a gust.

A tornado destroyed everything I knew.

An economic tornado.

Yes, yes, I know that. Let me finish.

One that kills with bankruptcies instead of 2x4s.

I had to live with my cousin, who drives subways.

But lately, he’s been looking at me weirdly.

He mumbles about leeches and “the day,”

And about secluded and remote places.

He was surprised at how fast his beef rotted.

He’s starting to act in an interesting way.

Wait, you have to go now? I wasn’t done yet. 

Just listen to me for another bit.

I’m almost finished.

Please, don’t leave.

I need someone to talk to.


The buildings tower over me, deities of engineering and construction.

Deities made of glass and steel and cold exteriors

Populating the land like flowers in a meadow

And clearly visible through the window.

Progress, a businessman said, was the name of the game.

His hair progressed into a wind-swept mess, so I’d say he’s living by his words.

He also seemed to talk about losing his job, and about his weird subway-driving cousin.

I guess nothing is perfect.

If progress was really the game’s name,

Why does the train car still feel old?

The news kept talking about this economic crash

And how it ruined this country’s progress.

They must be real serious about it.

And the man with the messy hair is still here, still talking.

I’m going to leave. This is my stop, anyway.

The Child

This is my first ride on a subway.

A subway that isn’t at home.

Everything is so fast, all zooming and zipping

Just like a spaceship heading to the moon.

The inside looks like a spaceship, too!

Mom told me that Dad drives a subway just like this one

And that he showed me around one back home.

That was before he left.

I don’t know why Dad left us.

Mom won’t talk about it to me. She says that it’s 

“Too complicated.”

But whenever someone talks about Dad, Mom cries

Or goes away

Or tries to talk about something else.

My teacher taught me not to fight,

But instead to run to a grownup.

This is what kids should do when they get hurt by someone

But what do grownups do when they get hurt?

Do they have grownups to talk to?

Do they talk to Grandpa or Grandma like how I talk to Mom or Dad?

Do they just wait for it to not hurt again?

I don’t know. Maybe if I grow up, I will.

My mom is telling me I must leave here. See you, Johnny.

The Hurried

It is so cold here. But right now, that does not matter.

I overslept and missed my bus and lost my coat and lost the tickets for my train 

My clock was set to nine, not eight and had to take the bus because I lost my car

In that recession but at least I didn’t lose my job like that guy on the show so I had to take the bus but I missed the bus and how can you get tickets for a train when you forgot them at home well I had to pay for them at the station that’s how but why didn’t you call your friend Jonathan to pick you up well you can’t drive a car when your legs are broken and snapped in two but the tickets took out the money I needed to visit my parents back in the suburbs and sometimes

I wish

I had 

Some space 

To breathe.

It’s not like i wish for a mansion and a fast car or something like that it just means that I don’t have to worry about one late arrival cutting into my pay so I can have a little money left over just to treat myself or as security or to focus on the future and finally finish that degree i’ve been working on so I can make my family proud so I can…

So I can…

So I can…

Stop worrying.

Is Jonathan okay?

The Driver

It’s cold out there. Not here, though.

I can still taste the coffee in my mouth, and I can feel it in my stomach.

It always seems like everyone forgets about me.

There’s the passengers, the conductors, and then there’s me.

The lowly driver.

The person sitting in the front.

The one that people always forget about.

But I don’t mind.

It’s an escape from all the stress and strife.

Something horrible was happening.

First, the stupor of the early years began to stop.

Then, the structure began to stagger.

The stagger finally slowed to a stop.

Stagnation, one called it. In a single moment, lives started to 

The collapse hit like a stone to the head. Or a stab.

Someone said it felt like stumbling down

A stairway

That doesn’t 

Plan on





A Jonathan Burke lost his house in the crisis.

A Jonathan Burke also happened to be my cousin.

A Jonathan Burke lives with me for the time being.

A Jonathan Burke went out for a drive one day and got caught in a mangled wreck.

A Jonathan Burke will be my downfall.

Ever since he joined me, he has been straining me dry.

Another mouth to feed, another bed to sleep, another car in the street.

Spending days poring over the job listings.

I did what was necessary to survive. 

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