No one is sleeping.

You tap the naked light
Bulb and blink. The second
Of October, nineteen
Twenty-nine, 6 a.m.
A trolley car clanks, squeals;
The silver spigot trickles;
Your unopened mail holding
News from Granada,
Of Franco, sits on the trunk
Like certain photographs.
You know seventy-five years
From now, a man will sit
Down on this very day
To try to step into
Your day, just as you are
About to step into
Whitman's, the New York
He lost and sang; New York
Of statistics and columns,
Police and perfume, frozen
Rivers of silver
And cement, seething
Rivers of lament and tar.
In seven years, you will
Die on a road without
A name, and crows will claim
You as their own, a bullet
In your back and a boot
Print on your cheek. In seven
Times seven times seventy
Years, you will visit
New York again and hold
Whitman's hand, and in
That moment when 6 a.m.
Is 6 p.m., when his
Hand is your hand, you will
Broadcast depressions
And offer yourselves
To the empty offices
You walk through this last time
Forever. But really,
It’s only now and who
Will ever earn enough
To lick dirt from your boots, souls?
So you walk dark halls,
Down stairs, into the street.
You become the herding,
Coughing crowds of those looking
For work, for time to speed up
And slow down, a little
Light, like the man sitting
Here with you in his gray breath,
Though he doesn't yet have
The full-noon words to begin
Breathing them again.

Alexander Long was born and raised in Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania. He’s worked as a musician, fry cook, and obituary writer. His first two books—Vigil (poems, New Issues Press) and Noise (memoir/prose poems)—will be published in 2006. With Christopher Buckley, he is co-editor of A Condition of the Spirit: the Life & Work of Larry Levis (Eastern Washington University Press, 2004). His poems, essays, and book reviews have appeared in American Writers (Charles Scribner’s Sons), Blackbird, The Cream City Review, 5 AM, Pleiades, Poetry International, The Prose Poem: An International Journal, Quarter After Eight, Quarterly West, Rivendell, Solo, Third Coast, and elsewhere. He is a member of the writing faculty at West Chester University and writes, plays, and tours with the band Redhead Betty Takeout. (alexanderlong@comcast.net)

Boxcar Poetry Review - ISSN 1931-1761