Night on Rand Avenue

By  |  May 5, 2016
“Flood” (2012), from the series Post-Ever After by Krista Steinke “Flood” (2012), from the series Post-Ever After by Krista Steinke

Two wasps copulate over your back porch—
their wings grate the air above the ochre splotch 

where a hawk took down a pigeon last winter
not long after your move into the yellow house 

with the purple door. The blood lingers, faint 
against the painted brick as the condensation 

of a fingerprint left on cold glass. After a year, 
you’ve learned it doesn’t matter what hour you step 

on the porch to drink in the heady weight of lilac 
from two doors down; people and strays stay steady

catching road. There. Two brothers carry a big-screen 
away from a neighbor’s house. There. Someone curses

at his friends half a block ahead to slow down. 
You’ve learned who to not spare a word to.

Folks rarely look in your direction, nod, say hello.
You shift your weight, adjust the front of your shirt 

to cover any hint of freckled breast. Children’s voices 
and a terrier’s constant bark next door spill out 

with the pools of light from your neighbor’s kitchen. 
A cop rolls by, hammerhead slow. Then another. 

Someone was shot across the street last month—
gunshots here have their own sort of tongues. 

You even fell asleep to their staccato pulse last New Year. 
You stay here because you can afford it. But in your mind 

you’ve already left behind your sinking bathroom, 
the leak in the ceiling, cracks scrawled across two walls

and the mélange that lives nearby. 
Just last night, a paraplegic woman hauled herself 

up your steps and knocked on your storm door,
her motorized wheelchair left abandoned in the middle 

of the street. Once, before you knew better, you wanted 
desperately to put down roots in the thin soil here, 

to strengthen your artist’s bones against 
the dense muscle of the ’hood in this yellow house 

with the purple door across from the now empty lot 
where Elizabeth Hardwick used to live. You fell in love 

with the teal room, and the hardwood floors, and the church
choirs that compete each Sunday from either end of the street.

But the flickering streetlamps muddle the night, sheathe 
each person and parked car in a translucent sepia haze. 

Everyone you see is a haint. There. The boy with no shirt 
who must stand to pedal on a too-large bike.

There. The men you can make out in the neighbor’s yard
beyond billowing trap music and smoke from a grill.

There. Two wasps, although distracted for the moment, 
may at any point be poised to sting. You make no loud noises. 

No sudden movements. You retreat indoors. 

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Bianca Lynne Spriggs is an award-winning poet and multidisciplinary artist from Kentucky. The managing editor for pluck! The Journal of Affrilachian Arts & Culture and poetry editor for Apex, she is the author of Kaffir Lily and How Swallowtails Become Dragons.  Her collection Call Her by Her Name is forthcoming this spring from Northwestern University Press.