The upstairs neighbor trundles
room to room, scalding footprints
into the air. A green truck clanks
with lading. Trash cans rattle
and roll down the street. Cloudy dawn
rumples its brow. Suburban
with a downtown attitude,
this neighborhood festers and sweats,
although a linden that toppled
in yesterday’s windstorm refutes
my fear that nature has failed us.
Still, too many engines start
at once, groaning and polluting,
and too many small people exit
from their homes in gusts of flame.
I hadn’t noticed that each wears
a cheap plastic mask, the kind
children sport on Halloween.
Masks of devils, vampires, insects,
infamous politicians. Workdays
now require this sort of disguise,
which is why I don’t work anymore
but quietly pool in a melt
of protoplasm that anyone
can see can’t last indefinitely.
I should go to the museum
and face the art I fear most—
Goya, Dali, Fuseli, Rimmer.
Maybe by staring hard enough
I’ll evolve a useable silence
to apply like aloe to parts of me
that never get any attention.
Then if the next dawn breaks as sharply
as this one the broken edges
won’t cut me and spill even more
protoplasm but will blunt
on my surface and smooth away
in a hush of extinguished stars.