That night the air stank, the stars obscured behind wild horses of clouds. I walked on cobblestones on the edge of something I could not name: new land of unalterable decisions like a retinue of assassins coming right for me, who kept coming in a bad dream that dissolved like a black-and-white movie, the dark mouth enveloping the entire screen. The End. Then the aftermath like a heroin addict waking up in the overgrowth of a river path, no longer young. There are nights that pummel your life, chart an alternate course unasked for and colorless—the way it was the first time you encountered the one ready to eat out your heart— an innocent remark—a joke about ocelots or the weeds of purple carrots. That night I was caught in a before and after, an unsayable horror film of half-lives as we hipswayed and grunted along the Seine. When someone passed us, their teeth shone like those of a vampire happy with the waste of the world. Ready to drink it in. My body was four months pregnant, crossing over to a nightmared path of no return. But isn’t this the truth of every moment? To revise our lives into the I belong—to this tribe of the unreliable narrators, luminous in our stories and in our squalor.
Copyright © 2017 by Susan Rich. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 31, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.