Like a long walk off a short pier,
last night’s sleep left me gasping,
wanting more. Dry-eyed and blinking,
I know now what I should have done—
should have thrown the covers off,
padded as quietly as I could to the living room
to sit with the cats who teach all the world
how to live lightly. Should have clicked on the lamp,
let the light be harsh at first, like consciousness,
then allowed the amiable circle of its glow
to include me. Yes, it’s that friendly.
And yes, I want that intimacy back,
I want to wake without jaws clamped, shoulders
clenched up around my ears. And if not,
I want the stillness of those small hours,
a small zone of kindly light. I want to turn a few pages.
A couple of poems, maybe, to find the spaciousness
like the open squares of a net through which
all the ocean pours. Instead, I turned on my side,
heard blood pulse in my ear, rolled back on my back
to gaze at the ceiling I couldn’t see, the room
being that dark. Soon I flopped to my other side,
a funny fish trying to think its way back to water.
I remembered guarding the base behind the garage,
tentatively leaving more and more distance
to see if I could see around and name my brother
or Billy Graves or any of the others before one of them
tore out from the far side to kick the can. Eventually,
with all my nine-year-old stealth I strolled all the way around
to stand alone on the driveway and learn for sure
they’d made off for Wayne. Ditched me. Game over.
When we pursue it, sleep, like happiness,
eludes us. But I want it back, so I cue up
Miles Davis, grumble through morning routines,
and hope jazz can loosen the knots. Kind of Blue
includes all the colors of a trumpet. Emerald.
Amethyst. Amber. All the colors of night
with the tide of light coming in. Shadows peel back;
the sky creeps up nearer and nearer, its blue
a tone—there are no wrong notes, Miles said—
its white like a bone but also like the blue
of veins under skin. Intimate. I want it.
Time. Rest and ease. That largeness of heart
that includes, always includes. Miles provided
only sketches of scales and melodies, so the sextet
traded one mode for another, traded one element
for another knowing that air is oceanic and stone
is tidal and all the while “Blue in Green”
flows on, a sea-breeze, salty, incorruptible.
Already, I want it back. Morning, with Miles.
I walk the strand. I stroll today
the littoral zones, today, I see it through.
featuring Charles Mingus
is speaking in tongues
but the spirit understands.
At least some guy
in the second row does,
as the fanfold of melody
closes up, shutting
the pages together.
Who can explain
in their mute brightness
are so beautiful.
How like the night
this song is, full moon
a communion wafer
over the tongue of the world.
Edward Dougherty is the author of 11 collections of poetry, the most recent of which is 10048, about the World Trade Center. His newest book is nonfiction – Journey Work: Crafting a Life of Poetry and Spirit, where through poetry he traces his own development as a poet, and volunteer at a peace center in Hiroshima, Japan.