SPOTLIGHT: Singing in the Dark by Arya F. Jenkins


We inch upward along a narrow winding path in our
Red, blue and green sneakers with
Half-moon rubber tips
My father in front, my brother on his shoulders
Keeping us back from oblivion with
The pole of a decapitated broom

The screeches of albatrosses accompany us
Their long-winged shadows
Streaking the mountain’s hollows
Reminding us death hovers close
Our knees quake under our shorts
“Just look at our sneaker tips,” I whisper

At the top my father and brother stand
Totem-like at the cliff’s edge
Attuning to the sea’s call
While we fill our pockets with
Shells, clay bits and bones
The ruins of a world.


In the dark
I recounted bad dreams that had occurred in the
Square box of daylight in my room

Sitting at the edge of my bed
My feet not yet touching the floor as I
Waited for the gardener’s special present
Still and alone I contemplated
What I merited

When emptiness sang in my hands
And after he had fled with our secret
And I brimmed like a wound

Unable to repose nights
Or find the right words

No one cared to listen
Even to my silences

Every road I dreamed
Held a trick so
I promised myself
Not to speak
Or rather tell the truth

The darkness agreed.


I was having you
Then I was not
The father hardly mattered
A coincidence on a
Wild night like any other
I was inconceivably bored
All I wanted was to
Impale myself on the moment

In my mind
I counted your fingers and toes
Named you Daniel
My precious boy

But I danced too long
Drank too much and
At the witching hour awoke saying
I cannot breathe
To no one in particular

The night swept past
I felt it through my fingers
Then down between my legs
The dark pool of it
Inviting me to enter
As if in so doing
I could remake you.

(For John)

To the brother now gone
Always going
To the drunk and rake
The fly fisherman tossing lines in faraway streams
The one enjambed in the dark
No, not to that one
But the boy ravenous for the world
Binoculars around his neck
Weighed down by instruments and
Dreams too big for his small form

To the one stepped on a mole in the backyard
Then ran disconsolate into my arms
Tears streaming down his chin
I killed it, I killed it
As if the full scope of life’s fragile art
Had revealed itself to him


He cried his softness to sleep
Grew up steeled against such things
Poisoned by drink
The thing that knew best how to kill him

No not to that one but the boy
Who stood by
Heart brimming
Alert to unfold his shelter of love
For all things living.


The boy is a poet his mother would say
When he stared out the window disconsolately
Although it was true he also had a father
Somewhere who had left them
Only a legacy of remembered violence
Rifles in a case staring coldly at the hearth
And the slight twist of his mother’s jaw
From a misplaced punch
Before slouching out the door
A half empty bottle of gin and a 45 in tow

The boy remembers the sound of the engine when his father took off
The cracking discharge and scent of his rifle when bullets tore through
Woods snagging unwary deer at dawn
The fleshy cauldron of blood his father pushed his face into
So he would grow into a man and not a fairy

His father’s eyes he remembers too
Bullet holes in the sky
Raging undetectable
Empty those
Nights he spent alone in bars losing track of
Time away from home and its calligraphy of
Sadness not his own

This is what the boy knows
So it is no surprise to his mother
When he takes an automatic weapon from the shelf
Presses it close to his chest and heads outdoors
To weigh what to do with
All his inherited power.

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