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Ambient Light

You have invited some friends over for dinner,
and each of them has brought along one or two friends,
who each brought one or two more, until the room
is crowded and senseless,

and the roast is being hacked and impaled
on toothpicks as makeshift hors d’oeuvres,
and wine glasses blithely tossed into the fireplace,

and a drunken stranger is cavorting on a giant mobile
outside your bedroom window. By now you’ve given up

trying to control anyone. You lie in bed, listening
to the sounds of a party that is nonsensical to you
and brings you no pleasure. A police siren

comes closer and closer, then dopplers into silence.
The hydraulics of a bus sigh rudely. A washing machine
merges into a pack of feral dogs. I meant to ask you

a question at the party, but I see now that you’re tucked in,
except for the pajamas with bunny feet that peek out
from under the covers. How small you are, how helpless.

I kiss you goodnight, once on each eye, and wipe away
the last tears from your lifelong tantrum.
Then I close the door slowly, slowly,

to avoid making any noise.

This poem originally ran in the April 7, 2011, issue of the magazine.