LETTING EVENING COME ON by Joshua Gottlieb-Miller

/ / Issue 9, Poetry

Seventeen, in a constant state
of non-emergency. Walking with my dog,

I’d invite neighborhood girls to join me.
During the day we would follow the trail

through the woods. At night, skirt
along the road by the edge of the forest,

lucky to see fireflies hover
over a puddle by the ‘no dumping’ sign.

This was the summer of the DC sniper,
who added a small, romantic danger

to wandering our lobbyists’ suburb.
Now when my friends mention

the sniper attacks, they talk about
how hot it was, the nervousness

in which they felt unmarked.
I think about walking by the woods,

slow-talking Kate or Priscilla,
or Priscilla’s sister. I was a coward

when it came to kissing, late to realize
if I didn’t make a move

I would never take a girl’s first blush,
run my hand into the unknown.

With every girl I kept their secrets
so well I forgot them. Whose were

their faces? The red dot of the sun
bloomed among its rolodex of clouds

as I woke alone. Each friendship
a surprise that required reconciliation

with my romantic life and the fantasy
I believed it would become.

Trickle of the almost creek,
dogs barking, back-firing

cars; I listened
to an increasing number

of lonesome smiles
letting evening come on.

The un-starred sky
telling us no one

was watching.
That breath held

as the shared light
zeroed in on the two of us.