by Christopher Raley
I don’t know why the lone bird sings
in the middle night where street-lit trees
don’t even whisper. They stand as if posing
in secret. Other’s eyes are drawn to other limbs
on faintly reflective bed sheets,
and window shades pull for a close in
of dimly heard reckonings: that bird
when vibrations have stilled on the air
and not even cars have strength to sigh.
Its full throated tune is a single ripple
from a drop, again, then again. For no reason,
again, then again, and only one listening.
Red molten eye breathes in at the night,
swells its iris and collapses out a veil.
The bird sings, building his sermon
to the slow irregular pulse. His cadence
starts from a simple warbled cluster, grows
up and down the scale, calling higher,
calling louder. What time must it be
when even the crickets have stopped
competing? They’ve long laid their souls
in minor thickets of drought-year grass.
Perhaps the foul odor, faint and trailing
curls of smoke that dissipate in what
light remains to molecules it claims—
perhaps even in that smallest guise
it pursues them deeply still, a sleep of
dreaming fear. But the bird still sings
and wonders at each red’s disappearance:
will this be its final declaration against dawn?
Keys in the dark click and stumble.
There are no fair words for this.
I’m just a hired hand sneaking out of bed
when her breathing is deep and her dreaming
is regular. The mind that rejects me for life
is the mind that welcomes me this death,
this tired, chemical repose between lines on paper
or in the blue shineless light of screen.
It’s selfish, this night, this bird, this eye.
It’s not bright to prop a burning cigar
on a box of matches, and the back deck
plays host to all I have chosen not to say.
Suddenly a baby cries from the house next door.