Breathing in the Dark

Working men choose words carefully
weighing how much ice they hold, how
quickly they melt away. Through
the blur of drink and politics, last
night's woman and baseball game, we

hunch in old, unpredictable directions
imagining our stoic grandfathers waiting
for the riverboat to scream its readiness,
waiting to journey impossible Mississippis.

The words we speak revolve around
the universe of our distraction, not
wife lifting child to breast to feed,
not the awkwardness we inhale watching,
not a tenderness impossible to share.

Instead we talk of placing dirt far
beneath fingernails, acquiring hernias,
visions that come when body works
itself as tired as mind, betting on
games we will fall asleep watching.

Later, when the crowd thins and changes,
when sight is a blurring circle, when
stories repeat themselves again, and
desired numbness lays its body across
calluses, we let words melt in mumbles

that carry us home to strangely foreign
clocks that tell of a time we are always
too late to meet, of a river that always
carries what seems needed to climates,
shores too distant to be believed.

Ed Shannon

If you've any comments on this poem, Ed Shannon would be pleased to hear from you.