Mid-Night’s Summer Dream
Hailstones and broken bones
rain down as I wait to fall asleep.
And just as I did the night before
I listen to her breathing
watch the seconds spin off my watch.
Little luminescent hands twirling.
Isn’t this what I knew it would be?
As shiver down every old man’s back.
Little boys and girls skittering
to the safety of Mom and Dad’s bed.
If Dad’s not there, then just to Mom’s.
From the humming refrigerator I pull the
environmentally insensitive plastic container
and pop a piece of chicken in my mouth. Pop.
A small chicken that pecked in the dust
ruffled her feathers.
Any chicken happier than this one–Kung Pao
but makes me feel good. Spicy inside.
Still thousands of millions scratch for feed
yanked off their feet, don’t look, don’t look…
They burn off the feathers.
Can you imagine plucking them?
Pow! It strikes, the lightning
just outside the house. Near miss.
No one dead in here.
Lights go down all over the city.
But it’s late. Okay.
The candle flickers now. I am alone. Really.
This is a moment captured–capturing–just
as it happens (happened).
There’s really no way for me to describe for you:
the mist coming in the open window
blurring the ink
blurring my thoughts
even before they hit the page.
Like somedays. Even before the thoughts.
Simple words string together sometimes
to make sentences that just go on and on.
This isn’t one.
And a little piece of red pepper has stuck
between my teeth and my whole mouth is alive.
Alight. On fire.
Wish the words would follow the instructions and
get down to business, quit skirting the subject.
Of her. Sleeping upstairs now
didn’t even hear the bolt
that nearly changed the course of our dreams.
Wonder how the boom-sounds affect their
course–her dreams–much harder to imagine
them happy now–her dreams–in this
much harder to remember the sun.
But that’s her. Here I am. Now.
The chicken is gone but not forgotten.
And the simple way the cool breeze blows in
and the lightning lights up the sky the page
and the ink is still running, smearing,
and will it matter, what I’ve written in the morning?
Will it even matter?
That I am here. Is certain.
The light is still out, the candle burns
blows ghostly shadows on the walls. Bare walls.
Staring glare-flash back at me, held in suspension
between the misty windows, and the walls like a
camera shot catching this all, without words,
without sound at all.
Tilty walking in the shadowy dancing hallway
up the stairs again. She is still there. Still asleep.
Still beautiful. This is not meant for her to read,
so those thoughts were honest.
I’ve heard people say it, “She’s beautiful.”
But I know them, they are nice to me.
I sort of remember when we met, how I felt
how excited I was, how she liked me and I was shy.
I am not shy. She says she loves me now.
How do I know?
She loves me, she says.
Again the lighting strikes, far away.
Rumble-thunder rumbles the dishes in the sink.
I got tired. I didn’t want to wash them.
I went to bed, saying I was tired
but I didn’t fall asleep.
Now they’ve stopped rattling
but the reminder has been made.
I don’t feel guilty now. Nope.
Not one word of it.
I just didn’t do them.
The paper sack of garbage is full and
moist along the bottom under the sink.
We really should recycle, I think, tossing
the white carton on the pile and closing
the door before it falls on the floor.
We should try harder at this love thing
before the lights go out, flicker candle,
grow dim fade to anger hate divorce–Pow!
Shock us into reality. This is it.
Waiting and dreaming about it.
didn’t take away any of the realism.
Each day another shower, another bar of soap
and won’t you pick up some dishwashing liquid
on your way home.
The something happens.
Reminds me of why we made this choice.
A flash in the rainy night. And a moment passes.
We’re not sure if we’re alive or dead, coming or
but only able to hold on to the idea of the other
person. And a word like love doesn’t help the
definition or the feeling along the way.
Doesn’t begin to explain why she picked me
and continues to come home every night.
Not steered off course. By faith. I believe.
Or grace. Keeping her car heading down
the same streets and not careening off a cliff.
Others veer off, crash.
The prayers of a little boy answered
while waiting for his father to come home
got something much better, much later in life.
But I still miss him. I do.
And I’ve found the new religion.
I keep praying.
Watching headlights pass
in the slick street below.
Smiling my thanks.
three slow graces – john mcelhenney
© 1990 john mcelhenney, all rights reserved