Kitchen Open Late
I have a thing for walking city streets at night,
late, after most things are closed
and the trash has been set on the street.
It is a bit less than safe, I know,
and have never quite been certain if that was part of the charm,
or if I am a bit foolish.
There is a grittiness to it, a film noir feel,
full of dark corners and alleyways
and men smoking in doorways.
Steam rises from the sidewalk grates,
more evident than in daylight, more dramatic,
like the earth itself is breathing heavy.
Somehow, perhaps because I don’t appear rich enough,
I have never been mugged. Likewise, I have never
encountered the femme fatale.
There are stories in the dark corners,
in the late-night diners.
Night people keep to themselves.
I am one of them. I nurse my stories
over runny eggs benedict and slightly burnt hash browns.
I sip day old coffee. I disappear.
But not my stories.
Those I write in my red-backed notebook,
with my blue pen.
I have written enough over the years,
that I have replaced my pen a dozen times.
The ink runs dry. My stories never do.
When I am done, I walk the streets again.
I stop at an old steel drum full of flaming garbage
and warm my hands a while.
There are four of us there. No words are exchanged.
as I wonder. My quiet life is too full of past,
short on plans, short on future beyond this moment.
What other tales are lost? What stories and poems and paens,
dirges and funeral songs, jigs and masterpieces
of life and loss rise to the sky like sparks.
Where do those stories go when we die? and does it matter?
I finger my red-backed notebook deep in my pocket,
and imagine it burning, sparks and stories rising to the night
like a burnt offering.
But I cannot do it. I cannot offer it to the night.
I am too afraid of disappearing,
and even if no one reads my deep truths today,
They may find my stack of red-backed notebooks,
my decades of secret truths, and maybe, just maybe,
I will matter.
I walk away. The darkness calls.
The late-night diner calls. There are stories to write
and the morning will come all too soon.
About this poem
When I travel to NYC for work, I like to stay into the night and walk the streets.
Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks is one of my favorite paintings.
I really do use red-backed notebooks. I am rarely far from one.
In other words, there’s a lot of truth in this poem.