Lights in strange places: A poem

Photo of a field in the mountains
Sage Alexander/Staff

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there’s a bubble in the wall above our pillows. 

it’s a painted over bulge, caught condensation from decades of tenants 

mouth breathing into a room with no circulation.

and when I can’t sleep,

I look up hatefully,

and I imagine popping it with a knife

 

but I just melt deeper into our bed’s sagging embrace

in a squeaking stained cheap love puddle, 

a nest of warm and sticky gel, like those nasty vintage jell-o salads

where I’m a suspended tomato

and he’s a pink shrimp

both in a green glob of sickly sweetness!

and we’re trapped in a yellowed recipe book from the ’70s.

 

the sunlight only peeks through at 10:15 and then flickers out

not burning off the night’s condensation.

we found dusty white freckles on our piles of clutter,

my sister told me I smelled like mildew —

the hole of my apartment follows me.

if growing up were a front page story,

the headline would say:

Newly Moist Cage for Dry Weather Fellow

 

our air purifier turns into a shield!

more than white noise

to block out televisions and the conversations of strangers and footsteps and Amtrak whistles,

it guards my lungs,

both now caked in layers of smoke from a year away from home,

peppered with blossoming spores

the longer I stay away, the bigger it grows.

 

I sink deeper into concrete holes, I walk past buildings of a thousand eyes, 

always looking.

but those repulsive eyes look on fondly sometimes. 

the city glow turns to something warm, like a fireplace, like peeking into family dinners through naked windows or seeing our little place’s porch light, 

warm meals torching off the damp loneliness of isolation.

 

these lights in strange places,

our nine mismatched lamps. each useless individually

but together shine

Contact Sage Alexander at [email protected].