— for Ross Gay
Warm summer night, the screech-call of a siren,
horns bleeding down an avenue, the skyline's far
diamonds glinting. I've long forgotten whose party
it was or why a couple dozen of us were up there
milling around under the blurred stars in pockets
of two or three, beer bottles clinking, glowing
baton-tips of cigarettes conducting a chorus
of laughter and chatter. Behind blurred yellow squares
in high-rise apartments across the alley, silhouettes
scrubbed dishes or snored in recliners behind shut blinds,
the facing building playing its nightly mosaic
of so many human shows not worth watching.
When, in one bright room directly across from us,
curtains spread wide, a naked couple lay down, embraced,
and began their night's slow dance. Over the now
made-one body of the crowd of us, an arcing wave
of giggles sparked and rippled like static on a black dress.
Someone tried shushing the rest, a few others clapped,
another near me wisecracked about making popcorn.
Across the rooftop, in our instant audience, an itchy
shimmer of 6th Grade sex-ed titters slowly stilled.
Witnesses to need, our once patchy wingspan closing,
we became a dark moth folding into reverence
in this one thrown light. A few blocks away, maybe
a man alone in his room watched the dying whir
of his ceiling fan, practiced saying the word cancer.
Maybe a few floors beneath his, a woman stared up through
the beam of TV light at a white-hemmed helix rising from
her smoke, its twirl stitched with flashes of the late news, sheets
of ice bigger than this city plunging from calving glaciers
into the sea's frothy bloom, the unfathomable blue
slaking its thirst. Maybe in the gone silent siren-light
down another street north of here, a mother screamed
over her second shot boy, his blood's widening halo flooding
the sidewalk cracks, a scarlet tsunami rolling toward the coast
of her dry lawn, a cop lowering his gun. Yet there we were,
sky-high, congregated, not wanting to look away for one second
from this clean blessing shared in a bright bed before us, this
undressed altar of sweat and breath and want. What can we do
but pray — however we still may — before this world's
flaring wick burns out, before we fuck it all away.
Good night, world. Good night, good, God-forsaken world.
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