we have given up on knocking.
Incoming! we say, with our eyes lowered for modesty,
or, Hello! or sometimes, Sorry, sorry!
You have to pass through everyone’s bedroom
to get to the kitchen. We only have two bathrooms.
As a courtesy, nobody will poop while you are showering,
but they might have to do their makeup or shave
if they are in a rush, if we have somewhere to be,
so you can recognize every person by their whistle
through a wet shower curtain, you haven’t seen your own face
on an unfogged mirror in weeks. It doesn’t matter,
self-consciousness has no currency here.
If you were nosy, I suppose the little bathroom trashcans
would spill their secrets to you, but why bother,
privacy is a language we don’t speak.
Someone is always awake before you,
the smell of coffee easing you into a today
they have already entered,
a bridge you will never need to cross first,
and no matter how latenight your owl,
there is always someone still awake
to eat popcorn with, to whisper your daily report to,
to compare notes on what good news you each caught in your nets.
In bed, you say, Goodnight! in one direction
and someone says it back, then turns and passes it,
so you fall asleep to the echo of goodnights down the long hallway
’til it donuts its way back around to your pillow.
Someone is doing a load of laundry,
if anyone wants to add some extra socks?
Someone is clearing the dishes,
someone has started singing Gershwin in the backyard
and you can’t help but harmonize,
and for a moment what you always hoped was true
finally is: loneliness has forgotten your address,
french toast browning on the stovetop,
the sound of everyone you love
clear as the sun giggling through the window,
not even a doorknob between you.
Copyright © 2023 by Sarah Kay. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 2, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.