I GO OUT FOR A SMOKE AND BECOME MISTAKEN FOR THE ARCHANGEL
f r a n k x. g a s p a r
When I go outside on nights like this, nights without
cloud or breeze, city nights full of buzz and hoarse whisper
and the distant surf of automobiles breaking upon darkness,
do you believe I think the stars are waiting for me? How
lonely the streets are among the buttoned houses. How
I long sometimes for a doorway and a cigarette to smoke
in it, for some rain and a hat to pull forward over my eyes.
What is it in this darkness that draws the eye, anyway?
No blossoms shout color, no tree offers green in this
basin of shadow. Now all the requiems come forth, each one
with its measured voice, each ecstasy and lament, each
joy and despair joining hands. Who are these people who
have taped butcher paper across their front window and offer
me a shadow play I can't possibly forbid myself from watching?
The man is big bellied and sits in a chair. The woman is large
in the shoulders and sits in a chair. There is no other furniture
but a lamp and something—a pile of books? Newspapers? Who
can divine these shapes? By what right? Why are they rendering
unto the world so much of their unhappiness? Or am I
mistaken again? Maybe it's joy. In that other life, the hidden
life that counts, I walk across the gray lawn and tap at the window.
They mistake me for something I am not: a messenger, perhaps—
yes, a messenger. They come to the door and look and look
but they don't see me. And then they go back to their places
behind the window, behind the paper, in front of the yellow light
that deepens them and reduces them. And they have done
a good deal of work for one night. They have reduced me. They
have distilled me. It is a kind of resurrection and vindication.
Can you see it? It comes from that other life. You carry it with you,
you get used to it. You forget about it and it goes on talking and
singing and weeping all by itself. It's all right. It needs you.
You can walk me to the corner and share a coffee and tell me
your stories. It will still be there when you get back. It'll wait for you.
From Night of a Thousand Blossoms, © 2004 ~ Alice James Books, Farmington, ME
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