July Nocturne by Kathryn Haemmerle

The moon cracks itself over this city and probes the streets.
I want to steal its plasma
and learn what pulse keeps anything awake.
What gods fell from the sun’s centrifuge? They distill into light,
spill through the late dark, the streets, through marrow
reshaping itself only to leave later without a trace from sleeping
bodies. But for a moment it all comes back
and a body turns timeless.
On nights when I can’t sleep in the heat-wave pressing the city,
I circle my block, then the east river.
A bridge interrupts the black mercury
of night meeting the surface. These fever nights,
amateur astronomers search for an invisible projection into space.
Cosmic shapes are lost in light
pollution, in the night sky’s day-purple obscuring the imaginary.
Tonight, nothing stays awake for long. I slip from something alive
and look like the mannequins on the wide street,
smooth limbs stilled in darkened window-fronts, blank faces staring
across the empty street at my slow figure peeling the night.
And in this city, night means motion, not color. Night wants to be mutable.
Night wants to divide a self into the pile of crushed metals
and ash-veins of steam rising from the street, into siren-lights shooting
across town. Night wants to launch a person moon-flushed from a car,
from the whole glass of the world. Night wants to recall survival,
but won’t. I doubt the night, its fractured shadow, its after-heat.
Its need to ignite and punctuate.
That night always ends is impossible to remember when it’s dark.
That night pales is a slow vision toward day.
Day collapses a person into a single being and I am whole. Whole enough
that I have the feeling each thought has always belonged to me.
So whole that on the train I sweat and watch the sun’s orbit
until I forget the throb of my own shape.
Kathryn Haemmerle’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Blackbird, Lake Effect, Nimrod, Vinyl Poetry, and 2River View. She holds an MFA from the University of Oregon, was a recipient of an MFA Scholarship to the 2018 Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and was selected as a semi-finalist for the 2019 Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry from Nimrod. Currently she lives in San Francisco.