In the Middle of the Night
by Pat Daneman
No one is there for anyone else. Even though that is what we expected.
All over the city millions of people guarding their worries
like angels. People who don’t deserve worries. People living in boxes.
People inexperienced with the politics of worry—should they go to the window
or into the kitchen? Is it time for a glass of wine?
The disappointing parent would make a list here—
Airplanes arriving or not arriving on time or not arriving at all.
Lumps that might be discovered, lightning bolts that might strike.
At this ridiculous hour the disappointing parent is asleep, alone, or with someone
disturbing. It is the waitress, the public relations doyenne, the ammunition salesman
we need to consult at this moment. Haggard in the light of computer screens,
blue faces, fingers searching for answers to sleep-
Slim and cool, the bare feet of the understudy across the creaking wood floor
of her jealous mother-in-law’s library. Locked in a bathroom the assistant professor
contemplates the shell-pink complexion of his most promising student. They conspire,
water spills. Everywhere, longing. The young talk show producer
whose illness is taking its time. Her lover’s prayers into the sky—
I’m afraid. You must try. Don’t let go. Glasses on nightstands,
magazines slithered away.
Too late to the party last night, nobody ate your cheap cheese. No one cared
that you won the Missouri Award or that your doctor found nothing worth keeping
an eye on. All over the city good hosts, ugly dancers,
bankers with sore necks are writing notes to themselves.
Petting cats. Whistling. Millions of people are lying
awake, tugging at quilts heavy with the must
of ancestral insomnia. As clocks chime, as bells toll,
they send flaming or laundered or half-eaten wishes
like paper boats into darkness. As trucks hurl their weight
down innocent highways. As the earth moves and the sky
is still. As morning approaches.
Pat Daneman has published poetry in The Pedestal Magazine, The Cortland Review, Blood Orange Review, Inkwell, RE:AL, Fresh Water and other small print and online magazines. In 2009, her poem “Thanksgiving,” in The Apple Valley Review, was selected for the Best of the Net Anthology. She has a masters degree in creative writing from Binghamton (NY) University.