Featured Poem: Nights Like This

By Tomas Q. Morin

THE NIGHT IS STILL YOUNG,
but already the neighbors are
playing God knows what
music, and I wonder if the bugs
that sing think the same
thoughts I do about that
driving bass or if it reminds
them of the steady pulse
of blood across their wings,
though maybe not, maybe most
bugs, the singers at least,
are treble fans, and I’d wager
a cicada is fond of a high
note on a synthesizer,

none of which, not bugs
or bad music will help me
fall asleep tonight,
and to be honest, it’s not
their fault because I blame
the sheep, you know the ones:
the jumpers that are supposed
to clear imagined fences
no plump sheep ever could,
the ones that are a cliché
until they don’t show up
for work and then they’re not,
then they become a minor
tragedy or a comedy
of errors depending on the mood
you’re in as you flop in bed
from one side to another,
eyes closed, eyes
open, none of it making
a bit of difference, all the
while that fence we’re meant
to focus on just sits
there, falling apart,
until we walk closer and see
it’s not a fence, but a net
torn in places, sagging,
and the red ground is not
Oklahoma clay, but a tennis
court no one has used
in years, all of which explains
those truant sheep never
punching in, and before Marx
has a chance to enter the scene
with his dream of brotherhood
and that dingy sheep
under his chin, we leave
the court and look through
the dirty windows of what
we called hobo shacks
at the work of the spiders
that built sticky corrals
from table legs to walls
and back again without ever
having to dig a hole
and drive a single post.
When the leaves shook
like a rattle, what we took
for a cool breeze off the
brook hidden in the woods
was really winter whistling
from behind the mountain. It never
leaves this country, does it?
Waiting, it’s always waiting
to slap a white paw down,
and I’ll bet it loves
to bite these trees, obliterate
the trail leading us down
to the campsite where we’ll find
what we always find
on nights like this: those
we cherish sleeping side
by side next to those
we never wished to see
again, everyone’s stomach
full and distended, their bodies
making a circle around the fire
so that they almost look
like a sunflower ringed by its
plucked petals, its head
hot, brown, and hissing.
Moments like this, I remember
what I hate about sleep,
or the lack of it.
The orange juice is icy
in its jug again and morning
will soon be here. We sit
on the porch and stare into
the dark pasture across the
street where the rams and ewes
have been busy all night,
busy dreaming of a place
where people hunt up
and down a mountain
and through woods so long
in search of what they
can’t really remember
until they give up and go
quiet, like a deadheaded
flower snug in the lips
of any old sheep.
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