Three Night Poems
When the great grey European dark
falls upon the city like a spell,
the streetlights haloed, the old people
huddled in doorways, eyes alert,
and my heart sags in its net of veins
like a rock in a sling (for History
is a giant here, stretches and straddles
the dark continent) and I walk home
and would go on tiptoes if I could
so as not to break fragile anything,
not to kiss dust from anybody's lips
or change anything from stone to flesh,
then always I see the lovers,
the Roman lovers on the sidewalk,
leaning together, he whispering,
she listening, laughing, so close
they can make one perfect shadow.
O Noah's pairs of all creation
couldn't please me more! I hurl
my heart into the deepest night
and hear the astounded giant fall.
And I rejoice. I fumble with my keys
to open doors. I kiss my wife.
I hold my children hostage in my arms.
Say, they roll up the sidewalks all over town
by 11:30 p.m. Lord, by midnight there's nothing
moving, doing. Lone streetlights glare,
one-eyed, but do not dare to dance.
Here and there late lamps burn pale
fire to keep back the beasts of the night.
Somebody's sick, you think (like Huck),
or, less innocent, project the lewd
fantastic, the cheap old beams
and images from broken movies
into frail naked rooms. Alas
for the cop on the corner who offers
a glass-eyed stare, and for the last car
weaving the pavement like a lonesome drunk.
Dancer, giants, heroes and dreamers,
where are you now? It's a fact--
when a heart breaks it doesn't make a sound.
3 Middleclass Nocturne (late 1950's)
My house is thrilled with creaks and sighs,
whimpering shadows, rattling panes,
and twice tonight I've had to rise
to look for prowlers where there are
none but some versions of myself.
My children are asleep. My wife speaks
in her dream. My goods are on the shelf
and hung in closets, safe. And yet I lie
here feeling as I did once, as a child
who dreamed that armchairs stalk the dark
like bears. Wind in the chimney had a wild
tune to play on fretted nerves.
Now there is a difference. Now I know
I'll never teach those bears to dance
or keep them quiet for long. Now I must go
in a cold sweat to find their lair.
And all these things I proudly call
my goods are fragile, perishable, cost
too much. I'll never shrug them all
away to gambol on an early grave.
By George Garret
Recipient of the 2006 Carole Weinstein Poetry Prize
Reprinted by permission of The University of Arkansas Press
from The Collected Poems of George Garrett.
Copyright © 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1969, 1961, 1962, 1963,
1964, 1966, 1967, 1978, 1981, 1984 by George Garrett.