Watch, sometime, the sparrows,
like worried nuns in their medieval hoods,
collect on the power lines, then flee the dusk
gathering over the shoulders of a town like the one
just passed by the bus you boarded hours ago. See
how night first furs the edges of buildings, then shepherds
each thing completely unto itself. And the lights
tick on, making the sky glow
false in that nearly forgotten and ancient
conspiracy of men to fashion a home out of darkness.
Maybe you, too, would press your face
to the oily window and try to make out those true
constellations, a figure there, above, that you might hold
in your arms like a stranger on the eve of this new year
you didn’t ask for, and so far from where you began
you don’t know it anymore, except by the dull,
congenial letters you sometimes get. Night passes
slowly, and you let go and turn
to the woman sitting next to you, watching.
She’s short, plump at the ankles, with the scent
of gin coming off her teeth, and little thrift in the sudden,
though expected, kiss
spent on your lips that pull back and smile, too quickly,
and a little ashamed already
of what you will whisper, later, in the welcomed dark,
when being alone will no longer seem an issue of grace
or dignity, just a wretchedness
of skin left untouched too long. Later, in the first
pink of the morning, it will be an emblem
of stubborn beauty that will surprise you — her ear,
a curl of potter’s clay, little cone of abalone,
or a fairy’s horn, fallen — just then — empty
and glowing on the pillow. Mercy, you’ll say,
though you’ll know it’s not enough.