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The moon salts the sky with stars and the only sounds in the house
are the dog’s breath and the furnace’s belch through old pipes.
On this coldest night of winter, I huddle beneath comforters.
On my nightstand, books pile five high, pages bent
at corner edges, annotated, smudged. My young dog twitches a dream
against my calf. I cannot sleep. I’m afraid of how old I’ve become.
The screens that distracted me all day long with insolent voices
and their bloated sense of significance are now just dark
in a dark room. I suck hard at the air. I’m afraid I’ve stopped breathing.
A car’s headlights skins the bedroom ceiling, leaves blue hollows.
I’m afraid I can no longer cry. When I was a girl, before I’d sleep,
I’d read my mother’s girlhood collection of British novels
shivering when the children died from “brain fever”
or “consumption,” or when the heroine lost herself
on the wild moor. Mosquitoes needled at my window screens.
Even then, I feared there was no safe place. But I shared my room
with two older sisters whose muffled voices would bring me back
to blankets, sills, the old moon. Back to summer nights
after backyard play when I made sure to unscrew the lids
of jars, so as to return fireflies—those wayfaring lights—
to the space between dark stems, dark blades.
Copyright 2018 Sharon Fagan McDermott. From Life Without Furniture (Jacar Press)
Sharon Fagan McDermott is a poet, musician, and a teacher of literature at a private school in Pittsburgh, PA. Her most recent collection of poetry, Life Without Furniture, published by Jacar Press (2018) wrestles with finding and feeling at home in the world and seeking sanctuary in an often challenging life.