A quiet light


The city lights looked coldly in at her

through jagged lines of the frost that gathers on

the panes in empty rooms. What kept her eyes

from giving back the gaze was the naked bulb

that hung above her head. What brought her to

that creaking room was dread–and aging locks

that fastened only when they turned just so.

She stood, at a loss amid the dark decay,

and worked to keep the night beyond the door.

And having scared the hallway rats with her steps

(a willful weight to each) in coming here,

she tried to scare whatever ears may lurk

in the shadowed streets below in stomping off.

The city nights have sounds–the highway’s whine,

the sirens’ scream, the cries of angry men–

that strike severely against a mother’s ears.

The locks are hurried to guard the inner night

against the outer, and tender songs are sung

to guard the children’s ears against the din.

She feared they might become easy neighbors

with it, and stroked their sable curls to ward

off any dreams the outer sounds inspire.

A light she was to no one beyond this room

where now she sat: a quiet light amid

the gaudy glare, a gently warming glow

against the flashing neon ice. She pressed

her lips against their tiny mouths, one kiss

to each of two faces scented with soap.

And then she slept. The child closest to her

turned over in the bed, disturbing her,

and she shifted, but the day hung long

and heavy, weary on her and still she slept.

One young woman–alone–can’t keep a home,

a family, a dream, or if she can,

it’s thus she does it on a winter night.