The Latter Nights
And the hum of a heater
That has somehow harnessed the power of a volcano,
Pouring air that might as well be magma,
These things keep me awake.
I can hear my footsteps scratching their way
In my flat-soled shoes, to my car,
Before they even scatter across the asphalt.
I can hear them, but I choose to ignore them,
And stay here, where it's warm
(Although too warm),
And try to ignore the unalterable colored pencil sketchings
That inhabit the east wall.
Goodnights and stolen glances stack up like a game of Jenga,
Teetering at the weight of their faulty framework.
All that is required is one breath,
Or an overexcited dog, with his tongue flapping,
To knock them over, to throw them into every corner,
For a grumbling adult to clean up.
I'd rather watch boxing.
Every night's a drunken fighter,
Threatening to fall,
Threatening to knock your teeth out, or
Swing wildly for a moment, slowly forget what the altercation was about,
And wander back home through the dark, but sometimes
You're the one to drive him home, and tuck him in.
These latter nights are seldom.
"We'll talk tomorrow" rings like a broken fire alarm
At three in the morning,
Then again at five,
When the bastard rooster across the block
Steps up to the karaoke bar.
And it sinks into the eyes, the lips, the hair
With every second stripping courage bare
Until the shoes are heavy on the feet
And clouds of gray in heavy washes meet.
One door closes, and so does another,
Until the house is safely locked,
And the four-year-old is snoozing
Next to a black heap that may be a shirt,
and may be the dog.
The ever-present Former Nights, will barge in
Uninvited, with an insatiable thirst for chatter,
And choke you to death, erasing every step you took to school,
And every worried glance in the mirror.
But latter nights fill up my prospects and dreams,
And help me brush my teeth in the morning
For the thirteen-thousand, eight-hundred-and-seventieth time,
And help me put on my shoes, comb my hair,
Say my prayers.
Through the winter, latter nights will wake me up, and
Keep me on the frozen gravel road that leads to the eternal unknown country.