In a college dorm, in a prison, in a marriage
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These days I wake up tired / after hours skimming sleep’s / surface like a hungry bird, waiting. / They say it’s a fact of growing older, / to lose the skill for sleep infants / and teenagers effortlessly have.
On my way home from school / with a gang of friends / I would see him outside / one of the bars or diners / near the Journal Square station: / my uncle, rasping the price / of a shine to the passing crowd
We were warned not to complain — / plenty more temps they could call. / Warned, too, to avoid the break room / with its jailhouse camera / swiveling right outside the boss’s office, / his speakers playing only country.
And I didn’t say there is no philosophy of life that covers this / I didn’t say how am I supposed to breathe when you stop
Mouse angels I have called them, / terrifying and warm and mythical, / seeming almost terrified themselves, / skittering after the echoes of / their own voices homing in / on the smaller creatures of the night
In grad school I had a writing teacher who’d completely cream my essays. / Cross-outs and tracked changes. He took me at my word / when I said I wanted to get better.
Every morning the public school chooses a student to lead us in patriotic worship over the intercom. I stand before my classroom flag and count my heartbeats. At recess I draw stars and stars.