Talking About The Night

Originally published in 2002 in my chapbook, “In Here Is Out There.”
Original title, “Talking To My Son About The Night.”

I have been thinking:
what do I tell my children about the night?

Something wicked these days
stirs in the night,

and I cannot lie to them
and say shh, be still,

all is well, 
we are safe.

Instead I will tell them the night
contains both darkness and light.

I know the light may also hide darkness,
but I shall hold back on that, at least for now —

so what shall I say to them
of darkness in the night?

I will say darkness is a young man
holding a knife to a lamp.

He adores how it may separate 
skin from flesh, sinew from bone.

He knows
that when it is sharp enough

he shall see the body’s coherence
fleeing before its edge.

Darkness is a woman
leaning out of her window on her elbows.

She sees something she does not favor.
She slips out the back door

to carry her gossip
to the slaughterhouse.

Someone there will take the news
to the mechanics who will adjust

the wheels of the juggernaut
for maximum kill.

On her way home
she will wipe her face with a stolen liver.

Behind her she will leave a trail
of rumors and cartilage.

Darkness is a gaggle of children
trapped in a dream

where they are made to suckle straws
filled with their own blood.

They purse their pale lips,
draw the red up, columns red rising,

red cresting in their mouths,
falling red into their stomachs,

such sharp nourishment,
such a simple lesson:

living through the night
requires such a meal,

a simple meal for a simple terror.
They have learned to devour themselves.

We stink of rich meats, phobias, fires,
restless pride, secrecy.

We inhabit our stereotypes,
slowed to the speed of custom,

houses crawling with indignation,
ferocity unbridled by logic,

atomic proverbs to live by —
a man decides to force himself
on the next random passer-by,

a boy slits an ancestor’s throat;
we shake our heads, we cry out

for the light and get the darkness,
violent, clean cut, simple, fast:

darkness is thinking that we can live forever
by living this way.

And after that? After that,
what can I possibly say of the light?

I will say to them that it is slander
to speak of the night and only note the darkness.

I will say to them: children, my children,
look at the stars.

I will say to them: children, my children,
whenever you despair of this world,

lie back
and look at the stars.

I will say yes,
there is horror afoot in the night,

but always, always,
we have the stars.

I will say that one star
may singly pierce the darkness

but that one star cannot cut through
the darkness alone.

I will say that there is
light beyond the darkness.

I will say, children, my children,
if ever you despair, remember these words:

I am a star, and I do not
shine alone.

About Tony Brown

A poet with a history in slam, lots of publications; my personal poetry and a little bit of daily life and opinions. Read the page called "About..." for the details. View all posts by Tony Brown

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