Early Wednesday Evening
It’s been a long day. Mr. Brickman snapped
when I was too slow with his coffee; typing
for eight hours left my intellect untapped,
as usual; the other girls were sniping
and spreading silly gossip. Then the train
was late and crowded—I stood up, beside
a sweaty man—and my feet are in pain
from these darned shoes. I’ll find more pain inside
this door, despite that warm light and that plush
red chair, but even gravely ill, my James
will greet me with a smile. Still, I won’t rush
right in; before the evening makes its claims,
I’ll stand a moment in this dark doorway
to take a few deep breaths and shed the day.
It looks so perfect, doesn’t it?
My house, my porch, my chair, my book,
my dress—but take a closer look.
Both house and body have been knit
too tightly. In the symmetry
of arm and architecture, hard-
won compromises strain to guard
against collapse. Stability
became my prize when I could win
no other—faithful husband, child
to love—and so I’m reconciled
to night air on my desperate skin,
to peace like glass. From where I sit
perfection’s mostly counterfeit.
So many lighted windows—I had thought
that no one else would still be up. I ought
to be asleep myself—I have to work
tomorrow—but more mysteries still lurk
in that thick book I took to bed, and out
my window, also. Curious about
those lights, I’ve left my bed to stand here gazing
at them—and someone might stare back, appraising
my half-dressed self, but even so, I’d rather
not close the curtains. I’ll stay here and gather
some stories that might rival what I’ve read.
The book’s not bad, but I got out of bed
to ponder other intrigue, so I guess
not good enough. And also, I confess
that I’m just nosy; now and then I wonder
what keeps my neighbors up, what stress they’re under,
what fun they might be having. I invent
some possibilities, an incident
or two, link people up and down a hall.
The brightest window’s partiers might call
their next-door neighbour (where the shade’s pulled low)
to ask for ice; and she would like to know
a little more about the man downstairs,
who always nods and smiles at her, and wears
expensive suits—but now his window’s dim,
his lost job and his scotch absorbing him.
Rage lights one window, as a couple fights,
vision another, as a poet writes.
Jazz riffs float out from someone’s stereo—
too loud for this hour—but it’s apropos,
a smooth sound for my stories’ noir-ish track.
It’s after one a.m.; I should go back
to bed, and let the tunes accompany
the thriller I’ve been reading—probably
improve it. I voraciously consume
these lurid potboilers; my narrow room
recedes, in one way or another—pale
beside the printed fiction or a tale
that I’ve made up myself. We both play fast
and loose with facts—we both distort the past,
revise the present—but reality
should make way sometimes for a fantasy.
And when at work tomorrow it’s not plot
that thickens, only boredom, when I’ve got
to finish that report right now!, I’ll grin,
a little smug because of where I’ve been:
these worlds where right now! means go get the ice!
or get the bad guy!, where being precise
means life or death or how much scotch to pour,
where love or danger lives on the ninth floor.
I’ve been to worlds my boss has never seen
and followed lives he’ll never know. Routine
may occupy the day—I can’t rewrite
those lifeless hours—but stories rule the night.
Jean L. Kreiling
Jean L. Kreiling is the prize-winning author of three poetry collections: Shared History (2022), Arts & Letters & Love (2018), and The Truth in Dissonance (2014). She is an Associate Poetry Editor for Able Muse: A Review of Poetry, Prose & Art and a longtime member of the Powow River Poets; she lives on the coast of Massachusetts.
The Ekphrastic Review
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