How many nights
in a walled room
have words scraped their way
across the floorboards, through the glass,
towards you? You’ve probably lost count.
Who knows? Who wants to know?
still hear those bumps in the night,
and the want-to’s spend their time counting
each window of the room,
each corner of each pane of glass:
one, two, three, four, the old-fashioned way,
all the time thinking there’s no other way
to ignore the noises—you know
because you’re there. You see the glass
leak, hear it all pour in, leaving the night
even darker, filling the room
with little vocabularies taking a head count
and tabulating their chances. When it counts
most, words come through, going way
beyond what’s required, leaving no room
for defeat. Somehow they know
I’m awake this late at night.
And what is that, now, coming through the glass?
It smells like wood alcohol, it’s plastered and glassy:
C’est Delire. It’s what remains to be counted
once reason slinks away into the night’s
doghouse. It’s Nonsense, which has its way
with sad animals and knows
how to terrorize innocents in a walled room.
Then give me a room
without walls, without floors, without glass,
without words crawling. You know
that’s a bad prayer, it won’t count
for anything in God’s scheme, the way
some prayers do, like Here’s-my-soul-for-the-night.
Still, imagine no room. Nothing to count,
glass would become sand, the way
time does, though I know it’s too late tonight.