It pricks the arms like poison,
knowing that some things, once chosen,
are yours and that meanwhile the night comes
much too soon this time of year.
There are things you will not be allowed to say.
You think them anyway, until they become you.
The two boys in shirt sleeves are in the street
again, skateboards balking
where the sidewalk buckles in geologic fault.
They seem mirthless, as they yell and fall
and the cold mist tries to veil them from passing cars.
Yesterday’s storm slammed the leaves to the ground.
Hiss, hiss, the tires go, against the scraps
of piano music, not Chopin today, from upstairs.
Someone tried to understand you once
and he’s dead, though not from trying.
Clunk, clunk, goes the landlady’s daughter,
trying out her new boots on the back stairs.
Things have narrowed to a point
and no gorgeous diction can get you out of it.
There’s just the flats of your feet,
willing each new step out of empty pockets
where change, keys, pens once rattled.
You threw them into the bushes on the next block
and then came home with the grey linings hanging
from your jacket like socks.
You forgot to check the mail
and when you opened the door
you brought the night in with you.
April Bernard is a poet, novelist, and essayist. Her most recent book of poems is Psalms (W. W. Norton). (1998)