Hometown Nocturne and Other Poems


Hometown Nocturne

When I can’t sleep, I remember it: blue fields
of night I’d slip into, my borrowed coat
and secondhand boots trailing frayed laces
through curbside sleet and neighbors’ lawns,
the poplars lanky and indifferent as teenagers,
the moon a spitball on the back of heaven’s
dark shirt. Some nights a boy would wait
in a car humming down the street, thumbs
drumming the wheel and the tailpipe panting.
But more often the ones I liked didn’t drive, got all A’s
and ran cross-country, had parents that kept them
from me, tongued my name like a secret
sweet. A good Muslim girl, I kissed mostly
above the belt, prayed when I had to, and when I slid
lipstick into my sleeve at the drugstore I felt bad about it,
I was very good at feeling bad. The sky fell regularly
in little white stars that caught in my hair. The air
singed my lungs, exhaled as tinsel. I shadowed
streets heading nowhere, asphalt erased
beneath a fresh sheet, season of rimed windows
and bated breath by the radio. In every living room,
some kind of nocturnal glow—plastic menorahs’
tongues of flame, cheap bulbs burning in fir branches,
a night-light shaped like a man of snow or God.

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