Late morning & the world burns. I cannot
So caught am I gazing
at my own aging face.
Late morning, late August.
Late morning & Lexapro. The world burns &
sometimes we watch.
Slivers of a burnt-world morning.
The South is wild-green & historic
& on the street it blurs. I see into
the face of a slave. Then the street
is street again. Then the street
is basketball & shouts at the night. Late morning—
The reef is dying
says Kristen. She’s crying.
It’s 18 million years old & it’s dying.
Late morning. Insistence is a strange deer
one day in the yard,
the grass longer. The hummingbird feeder
unvisited for weeks. Then Adam yells out: he’s here!
He! & so someone black-quick is tipped-beak,
genderblurred, maze-flitting, there
& nights: the families porch-gather
& if this is burning,
late-morning, if this is
world, and it is,
let me stand in the street at the white-hot
on the elbow’s crook, on the thumb &
other. In my eyes let me slave &
not, slave & knot. Let my eyes go full. I want
a burnt heart if the world’s burnt. Late morning.
Sweet oils for the wrinkles
on my face.
Eating raisins night.
Midnight Adam sneaks
into the chocolates.
Basketballs and shouts: evening.
Teenagers near the river.
Braless slow evening. The brain a heavy
fruit. Failure all blue-knotted,
blue-eaten midnight berries,
walls of the house
furred & dusted. Marquavius
is seven and looking to be hired
by Adam. All the neighborhood
boys at the door. Want Adam.
Sand is in a six a.m. soliloquy: moon-stained
skin. I can see her
through the cheap slats
of my study. Late morning: all
times at once. Late morning.
Adam plays records.
White voices with black
songs in the mouths—too
Grown-out crabgrass. Jean
the cat has kittens. Lexapro:
I take a swamp-dark
brain to Jean’s house.
I like your dress, she says. Wretch-me.
Sleep is a shut door.
Four tiny-mouths look
up with eyes.
Shut door, late morning, against
the ending-world. It is nine p.m.
One night’s clamor of cat-voices.
Late morning, the night
a shut face.
The eyes are facing
forward. Sand is drunk
and has words
in her teeth. I am always
waving at the neighbors, smiling. Friday
night: alone is an unbearable
bauble, the South in my face.
Late morning, one gift
for the evening’s end.
Skirt fallen open, black
hairs. The feeders
squirrel-taken. The squirrel’s skull
quick in the rain.
makes the world a room
and the men are
drunk. Will the world
end and we will stay
in our houses?
Will I never stand
on Sand’s porch with
monologues as the thunder
gathers? I have given up drink
and am impatient
because I wanted
my soul drunk in return.
Shamala Gallagher is an Indian/Irish American poet and essayist whose recent work appears in Poetry, Black Warrior Review, West Branch, The Offing, the Rumpus, and elsewhere, and is forthcoming in the second volume of Bettering American Poetry. She is working on a memoir/essay collection.