What I Saw That Night

 

I.

It was real,

I would always tell myself.

It was real,

            and I don't know

            if I'll ever be the better for it.

 

My hand lie atop

my stomach where,

                        earlier,

                        a knife with teeth

                                    licked inside,

 

and after it twisted

and left me a chewed up mess

 

it asked if I would

ever trust a person in need

                                    ever again.

 

II.

I was 6,

and to reach the toilet

            in the middle of the night,

I had to cross

                        the threshold to the stairs.

 

Staring beyond

our front door

I would see the concrete

                        walkway through its window.

 

From the bushes

            crawled every nightmare

                                    I could conjur.

 

One night it was a man

                        coughing up yellow bile

                        before I ever knew what bile was,

            but I seemed to understand why it would leak

from our mouths.

 

III.

We should enjoy our festivals.

Italians seem to the most.

 

San Gennaro

seems to be the patron saint

            of fried Oreos,

            mozzarella steak sandwiches,

                        and Frank Sinatra.

A man walks up and asks me,

            Don’t you know who I am?

 

I shake my head,

and watch his hands.

 

I say                 No,

I say                 Should I?

 

He makes me Google him.

My friend texts me

to help with the monsters

in her bushes.

 

I run toward the stairs.

I run to New Jersey.

 

IV.

I don't have a problem

with the idea of Hell.

                        Every demon I've ever met

            is real upfront

about all the frills.

 

V.

My first cassette

was Billy Joel’s

            “Glass Houses.”

 

First song,

            “You May Be Right.”

 

I would tap my foot

and smile at the thought

of being a lunatic.

 

My high school girlfriend

would sometimes slip

her hand under my waistband

and grab me.

 

I told her, Not until we’re married.

 

VI.

Turn out the light.

Don't try to save me.

 

VII.

There's a bar near Lorton,

Virginia, where you can share a bucket

                        of beer with a friend

            after his mother passes.

 

The back wall is non-existent.

The bar stools face you toward

the river.

 

Soon the evening looks upon the water,

with all its bright spangled accessories

 

and you'll have finished two buckets.

 

                        You won't recall much of the dialogue.

Just the buckets.

Just dark water

and the wealth

            to be pocketed from the sky.

 

VIII.

The house across the street from mine

has high fences

            keeping in two dogs

            I've only ever heard.

 

Everyone's windows are open tonight.

We like to breathe when we can.

 

I heard a little boy screaming for help.

Exclaiming that his father was, indeed, the worst

                        father ever. After

I heard him, I thought about finding out

if it was true.

 

I knocked at the gate.

The dogs must've been inside,

although the only barking

from inside was speaking English.

 

And now it quieted.

It walked down the steps,

on a concrete walkway,

and open the gate.

 

IX.

I used to find my mother

                        crying in her closet

                        from migraines.

 

She would sit near

my favorite hiding spot,

            which had been behind her clothes and shoes,

            pressed up against the back corner of the walk-in,

            which smelled like her.

 

I put my head in her lap

and stared up,

where I thought her face

might be.

 

She would hold my hand.

Your hands are always warm,

she would say.

First published in CLASH, 2017.