LEAVING THE LIGHTS ON
Sometimes I suspect I am nothing but a hotel.
My mother stays in my lips.
My father sleeps in my eyes.
My last lover stumbles around
With my flowery bathrobe flung on.
Yes, there are guests lurking
In every floor of this high rise,
Even the uninvited ones.
My ex-husband twists around my intestines.
His mother scratches at my throat
Like a cat clawing me down.
Last spring, I bought a NO VACANCY sign
And shut the doors.
I started to wash the windows
And vacuum the floors,
But the guests kept roaming around.
Their dirty feet kept
Wandering through my mind,
One at a time.
Outside after midnight
My naked feet lick the tears off the dewy grass.
I wonder how long the earth has been weeping all over itself.
I am not wearing shoes or a jacket.
I wear only a thin nightdress.
The flimsy fabric confesses my delicateness.
I see a siren spinning down the street.
There are pilgrims in blue approaching,
Seeking the truth for themselves.
Are you safe, ma’am?
Your neighbors heard things.
Ma’am, be honest: Can you protect yourself?
I play my favorite role
For someone in a flowing dress.
I play the priest who blesses what they touch.
I lift my tongue like a cross.
I tell the officer that we are newlyweds.
I say, He’s just getting used to this.
And when the policemen leave
I float up the stairs in a cloud of happy relief.
The danger has passed.
I journey to our bed.
I tiptoe past the splinters of broken dresser
And clothing strewn in my path.
I’m learning to tread carefully.
I can dance small, precise steps
Around the sharp shards I find.
“Leaving the Lights On” first appeared in Vagabond City Lit. “Pilgrimage” first appeared in The Virginia Normal.