The city lights looked coldly in at her
through jagged lines of the frost that gathers on
the panes in empty rooms. What kept her eyes
from giving back the gaze was the naked bulb
that hung above her head. What brought her to
that creaking room was dread–and aging locks
that fastened only when they turned just so.
She stood, at a loss amid the dark decay,
and worked to keep the night beyond the door.
And having scared the hallway rats with her steps
(a willful weight to each) in coming here,
she tried to scare whatever ears may lurk
in the shadowed streets below in stomping off.
The city nights have sounds–the highway’s whine,
the sirens’ scream, the cries of angry men–
that strike severely against a mother’s ears.
The locks are hurried to guard the inner night
against the outer, and tender songs are sung
to guard the children’s ears against the din.
She feared they might become easy neighbors
with it, and stroked their sable curls to ward
off any dreams the outer sounds inspire.
A light she was to no one beyond this room
where now she sat: a quiet light amid
the gaudy glare, a gently warming glow
against the flashing neon ice. She pressed
her lips against their tiny mouths, one kiss
to each of two faces scented with soap.
And then she slept. The child closest to her
turned over in the bed, disturbing her,
and she shifted, but the day hung long
and heavy, weary on her and still she slept.
One young woman–alone–can’t keep a home,
a family, a dream, or if she can,
it’s thus she does it on a winter night.