Salt & Sugar: Dark

    —for Jody Gladding
       and Andrew Nurkin

When it gets dark
and you’re numbed with nicotine,
a final exhale of cigarette,
your eyes scratchy,
contact lenses dusty,
the smell of vodka
on your breath, and still
not drunk enough to sleep yet,
but knowing sleep
will come soon,
even when you’re sitting
on the curb, yearning for a voice
that is miles away, perhaps
in a bed, underneath the sheets;
and perhaps it hears you,
though you don’t know it,
and are left wondering
if it’s only this,
if it’s only you,
this sadness
left behind when the day comes,
when you wake up,
silent, almost
ready for the sun,
and the alarm clock
whose ring hasn’t gone off yet,
whose ticking
you can almost hear
through the deadpan perfection
of silence.

When it gets dark
and you’re in your bed
listening to voices outside,
a conversation between two strangers
with lit cigarettes,
you wonder if they know
you’ve heard them,
that they’re not invisible
to the world. And you wonder
if tonight you’ll hear
the windshield glass breaking,
the clanking pewter
of stolen golf clubs,
and someone’s feet,
treading rapidly away,
and the glass
lying there on the asphalt
letting the moonlight bleed
through.

When it gets dark
and the moths
aren’t afraid to land
still after flapping softly
in the drapes for hours,
and the cell phone is charging,
the laptop charging—it’s
monochromatic laser
in the right hand corner,
pulsing, nearly breathing,
entering its binary NREM
sleep cycle, the hard drive,
its one gauzy eye
lighting up
the entire room.

When it gets dark,
you think it’s you
and you alone,
who counts the voices
of the haunted,
those who were run down,
perhaps with bulldozers
into quicksand,
their bedsheets pulled
over their heads,
eyes peering
through wool, bathing
in electric green light refracted
from the numbers
on the microwave—
and how, from this vantage point,
underneath this sea of cotton,
that light resembles constellations,
or at least
what those cosmic spirals
must’ve looked like, millions
of light years ago,
who knows, maybe
they’re burnt out already,
maybe they’re about to explode
or, perhaps, they’re just fine and dandy,
and maybe someone out there
possesses the doppelganger
of the Hubble Telescope
and is pointing it
back down towards Earth,
back down towards
those oceanic covers
under which the haunted lie—
under which you lie—
and even though
that galaxy dweller
might never see
the slow breathing
of somebody in the darkness—
your darkness—
at least they’d see what we see:
how it all looks like salt.

When it gets dark
and has been dark long enough,
and you’re once again
planning your magnum opus
in your mind:
a letter addressed
to all the dead presidents
you still idolize, who are, perhaps,
even smarter now,
after all these years,
after all the recent biographies
that graced Barnes and Noble’s
countertops like flowers,
and that slightly-rainy,
Monday evening
when the old guy
wearing the slightly-wrinkled
Tommy Bahama shirt,
dropped his latte
that he purchased from the Barnes
and Noble Starbucks,
as he missed his chair
and fell down
onto the obsidian floor
and you knew better than
to laugh at him,
but also knew better
than to not laugh, so you chuckled
inaudibly, stepped over,
offered a hand,
and let him, instead,
say the witty
thing,
and maybe that’s what led to this,
as you planned to write
when you got home,
when it got dark,
and you thought about writing
something darker,
but instead,
were more fascinated
with this afternoon’s event
as it randomly triggered
a memory
of the fat-guy president
whose name (Taft?)
you finally remember,
and chuckle at, loudly this time,
recounting
a day in 8th grade
when Mr. Thompson
enlightened the history class
with a myth about Taft,
how he was unable to get out
of his own bathtub,
due to his immense size,
and how the class laughed,
light years ago
it now seems,
probably even
on some other planet,
in some other galaxy
that looked like salt
from somewhere
deep in space.
And tonight,
you thought that maybe
you’d write
a letter
that started out
as a preamble
of sorts, but instead
became a poem
as the words came to you
almost instinctually, telepathically
from the ghost of another poet
whose voice
was distanced out somewhere
in the dark matter,
in the dusty green crab nebula,
singing to you
the Quartet for the End of Time,
almost bringing you
to record his notes,
something, at first,
you were nervous to write,
but as they seeped
through the static
so clearly,
you couldn’t help
but translate: Dear Adam,
why are you so sad?
The question that is,
in and of itself,
the only answer you have
when it gets dark.

When it gets dark
and has been dark for a long time,
something changes.
A self-conceived epistemology
materializes at the foot of your bed,
takes off its heels and black dress
and begins to smile at you,
and somehow, you are once again,
able to call yourself Cartesian,
figuring that sacred geometry
doesn’t really mean shit to anyone
but the boss’s hippie wife,
and suddenly
you can shout out
the flaws in Homeland Security
without even trying,
and then somehow
all the bills are paid,
even Rachel Maddow,
who kept your worries glossed over
during dinnertime seems frugal,
because now, at this point,
even Wall Street is sleeping,
Dow Jones keeping a lost tooth
under its nominal pillow
of googolplexi,
and you start laughing
to yourself in the darkness—
your body slowly turning
into salt—
and even after that fades,
which it always does,
you notice that the dog
is quiet, even if you don’t
have a dog
and plan to adopt one
tomorrow
at the Humane Society,
it is then you begin wondering
if anyone else
is still up at this hour,
and if they’re weeping, too.

When it gets dark,
you try to imagine
what this other person’s reason
for weeping
might be.

Front page image by Sean Naber.

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Adam Love

About the Author

Adam Love is an emerging writer from Salt Lake City, UT. His work is upcoming or appears in Main Street Rag, Metazen, Atticus Review, Sugar House Review, and others. He's the author of the chapbook, Another Small Fire (Tired Hearts Press 2013). He's the assistant poetry editor for Borderline, an online journal dedicated to persona writing and is the Literary Arts Coordinator for the Utah Arts Festival.
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