A group of schoolgirls from downstairs laughed,
and then the front door slammed shut.
Maybe the girls went out and took
their humor with them. Crickets
are chirping in the bushes along
the front porch, so maybe the girls stepped
outside and are about to laugh
to scare the crickets off their branches.
Crickets always make the loudest
sound on an early autumn night like tonight.
I will find time on Saturdays to sleep in.
I will be able to lie across my bed
through dawn. I will slip into imaginary
places and misremember that I have been
nowhere else, until I sit up inside
I will find that kind of time again. But
every weekday from today on, I will
wake up in twilight and go downstairs.
The world will illuminate as I sit in my chair.
You don’t burn out your eyes
looking at a star in the middle
of the night. But find it on
a line that lies inside
a constellation, and you’re blind.
Out from my uplifted hand,
I release my contraband of
“This is no time to be making new enemies,”
Voltaire said, reclining in his deathbed,
asked by a priest to renounce Lucifer.
Here, I have to concur.
My books are picked up, one by one. The
librarian mutters thanks without conviction.
Tonight, the pages burn in my neighbors’
lanterns. I will not rise in the morning.
I will be asleep, under the darkness
of my sheets, years after my pages
Orange juice laps down Pennsylvania
Avenue, and people touch their lips
to the flood to lap up the pulp.
No one quite knows where
the juice flows from. All that people
know are clues murmured on
gusts of the autumn wind.
With all the townsfolk distracted,
the Pied Piper breaks into homes
and steals away baby photos in a sack.
With no one looking, Fatty Arbuckle
continues his one-man protest
outside the Supreme Court, praying
aloud for an appeal.
He smells citrus in the breeze,
hears the shatter of glass,
and still he stands,
as the townsfolk whisper
next to a river.
“These are the streets I live on,
bitch,” the homeless man says, raising
his first through the fog of his breath.
He speaks to no one in particular,
it seems. He looks out in the direction
of all of them: the businessman in his
parked car dialing his mistress’s number,
the two college students finding
each other’s hands as they walk out of
the abortion clinic, the third grader dumping
pit her pitcher of unsold lemonade into the snow.
Perhaps the man speaks to all of them.
Perhaps he speaks to me, the sixteen year old
down the street with his hands in his pockets,
showing nothing to see. But perhaps he really
does speak to no one, because he turns back
inside the shelter without waiting for a response.
Yet he never lowers his fist.
When I woke up yesterday morning,
I felt that the day had
so much potential.
I fell asleep at midnight,
because I have to fall asleep
to begin today.