You are reading an archived issue of Sleet Magazine. To return to the current issue, click here.


Lucia Cherciu

In the Caves of the Metro

In Gara de Nord, the children of the streets are wild and famished. Their blond hair is matted, juiced with dirt. They lost their combs three years ago with the house they left behind. Their fathers are unemployed and scrawny, haggard from expectations, eyes bloodshot because they didn’t get that job. Their fathers yelled obscenities and boxed the children’s ears, lifted them in the air by their sideburns until the boys cried despite their clenched teeth.

The children left the house in their mining towns and now welcome the trains, reach out their hands at peasants who carry oversized straw baskets and know from church that every beggar is a saint in torn sandals. Sometimes they see a single woman in her provincial clothes and beg her for money. Her skirt is too large, carefully pressed, the iron leaving marks at the faded seams. She heads secretly to a hospital in a remote section of Bucharest, tries to find her way. She pays them two coins in return for directions, prays the lump is a mistake.

The children earn their supper, cash for glue. Their faces turn first grey, then blue and green, hide the reds, pinks and lavenders of their induced reveries, the short-lived life of the fumes at night in the cavities of the Metro. They sleep in catacombs of loneliness among empty bottles of Pepsi, blankets of cardboard boxes, an orange jacket forgotten on the train.

They pick scabs off old wounds and new fights, dream of dry places, spicy bean soup with lovage, beds in rooms with no drafts, kind looks of foolish strangers, wads of oversized bills sweaty in their hands as they hug themselves like baby bats in the caves of the Metro.

Lucia Cherciu was born in Romania and came to the United States in 1995. She is a Professor of English at SUNY / Dutchess in Poughkeepsie, NY, and writes both in English and in Romanian. Her new book of poetry, Train Ride to Bucharest, is forthcoming from Sheep Meadow Press. Edible Flowers, which was a finalist for the Eugene Paul Nassar Poetry Prize, was published in 2015 by Main Street Rag. Her other books of poetry are Lepădarea de Limbă (The Abandonment of Language), Editura Vinea 2009, and Altoiul Râsului (Grafted Laughter), Editura Brumar 2010. Her poetry received Honorable Mention for the Steven A. DiBiase Poetry Prize and was nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Her web page is

home  • current issue  • archives  • submissions  • us