O perilous night, O
You smell coffee, and the skin below your blouse burns.
You know you’ve hit rock bottom when
it’s Friday night, again
and here you are, in a church basement, holding tight a stranger’s hand.
In your new life, you say things like Hi, my name is and
thank you for your and
what I’m trying to say is and. . .
You’ve always been a good student. You recite the 12 steps under your breath.
Outside, it is night: lights flood the sky, the stars
tonight are just thumbtacks. You pinned
small notes to your fridge reminding you
to do this,
searching out the eyes
of strange men in the street.
You like the women’s groups best.
(In the women’s groups, you think about sex less.)
It was an angel who struck the dagger
from Abraham’s hand, and you imagine her awash
with the kind of light that stars cast
in the jungle, like how once you slept
in a hammock
your backpack a pillow
your hammock a blanket
and it was enough:
a kind of light like that.
Tonight, you were stuck on the train between an ad
for cancer care and Klimt, peering out
at the darkening sky. Even the tortured body
was beautiful in this light, tonight
there was only the quiet, falling
snow, and a man
reaching for his bagged beer can.
Kierkegaard says to love God without faith is to see
only the self, and you think of the hospital across the street.
All night, Mt. Sinai will sit quietly, its fluorescent hallways marked
by every human grief—someone
crying in a lobby chair, someone
reciting childhood prayers.
Will God draw close
if you call?
Tonight, another party. You hide in the bathroom stall. You are
thirsty, so you bring
water to your lips,
you are careful
and still, water
keeps falling through your hands.
Originally Published in The Common’s December 2019 Poetry feature. Reprinted with the permission of the author.