Talking To My Children About The Night

Originally published in 2002 in my chapbook, “In Here Is Out There.”
Original title, “Talking To My Son About The Night.”

I have been thinking:
what do I tell my children
about the night?

Something wicked these days
stirs in the night,
and I cannot lie to them
and say shh, be still,
all is well and safe.

I will tell them the night
contains both darkness
and light.

What shall I say to them
of darkness?

Darkness is a young man
holding a knife to a lamp.
He adores how it separates 
skin from flesh,
sinew from bone.
He knows that when it is sharp enough
he can see the body’s coherence
fleeing before its edge.

Darkness is a woman
leaning out of her window on her elbows.
She sees something she does not favor.
She slips out the back door
to carry her gossip to the slaughterhouse.
Someone there will take the news
to the mechanics who will adjust the wheels
of the juggernaut for maximum kill.
On her way home
she will wipe her face with a stolen liver.
Behind her
she will leave a trail
of rumors and cartilage.

Darkness is a gaggle of children
trapped in a dream
where they are made to suckle straws
filled with their own blood.
They purse their pale lips,
draw the red up, columns red rising,
red cresting in their mouths,
falling red into their stomachs,
such sharp nourishment,
such a simple lesson:
living through the night
requires such a meal, 
a simple meal for a simple terror.
They have learned
to devour themselves.

We stink of rich meats, phobias, fires,
restless pride, secrecy. 
We inhabit our stereotypes,
slowed to the speed of custom,
houses crawling with indignation,
ferocity unbridled by logic,
atomic proverbs to live by —
a man decides to force himself
on the next random passer-by,
a boy slits an ancestor’s throat;
we shake our heads, we cry out
for the light, we get the darkness,
violent, clean cut, simple, fast:

darkness is thinking
that we can live forever
by living this way.

And after that?
After that, what can I possibly say

of the light?

I will say to them:
children, it is slander
to speak of the night
and only note the darkness.

I will say to them:
children, my children,
look at the stars.

I will say to them:
children, my children,
whenever you despair
of this world,
lie back 
and look at the stars.

I will say yes,
there is horror afoot in the night,
but always, always,
we have the stars.
I will say that one star
may singly pierce the darkness
but that one star
cannot cut through
the darkness alone.

I will say that there is
a forever beyond the darkness.

Then I will say,

children, my children,
if ever you despair,
look up at those hints

of the hoped-for forever
behind the darkness
waiting to be torn,

and tell yourself:

I am a star, 
and I do not
shine alone.

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About Tony Brown

A poet with a history in slam, lots of publications; my personal poetry and a little bit of daily life and opinions. Read the page called "About..." for the details. View all posts by Tony Brown

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