Restless, numb after too much television,
I decided to take a walk. Noiselessly,
I pulled the back door shut, slipped from
air conditioned chill into the humid air.
The strange neighborhood looked familiar,
distilled to its shadows and silhouettes,
a re-run of all the neighborhoods I used to prowl
after sneaking out my bedroom window —
modest, neatly spaced houses slumbering
in the semi-murk secured by street lights,
a few porches lit like guardposts
beyond bristly, crew-cut lawns.
I felt compelled to broadcast my innocence,
strolled with my hands in my pockets,
alert behind a mask of unconcern.
My business in being out so late
was only questioned once, by a startled cat.
She bristled at me, scurried off.
I envied the privilege of her furtiveness,
felt like ducking into the pitch black
of some backyard just to feel my heart race.
I kept to the well-lit, concrete path,
encountered only one other insomniac.
I heard water hissing, saw a stream
across the sidewalk and looked around. A face
flared orange in the glow of a cigarette:
puffy, rumpled face of a white, middle-aged man.
What were his regrets?
I held my look open, but he didn’t glance
from the pristine turf, over which
he dully waved a fine, efficient mist.
Back at my father’s porch, I sat on a step,
pulling around me the portion of darkness
I could savor without fear of trespass.
The yard I’d neglected to mow looked inviting, cool,
so I knelt and eased myself down.
Chin resting on my crossed arms, I shut my eyes
and searched for the scent of soil and roots,
imagined all the corpses underneath,
relentlessly feeding the lawns in this land of sleep.