The coyote has long since gone
but the old pit bull still barks
at the edge of the chain link fence
for hours without pause.
I lie in the dark and wish
for soothing birdsongs but then
quickly remember the screech
of peacocks or the macaw,
and find a little comfort in the runt’s
guttural response; an echo
of my nature, the things I can’t
let go of that I know are already gone
the way we all stand in the pitch dark
bodies tense on the dew soaked lawn
until we know of nothing but
our hearts that yammer on
like a dulling meditation
some kind of soulful elegy
for all that has gone wrong.
Image: “Night Owl” by Draokos, licensed under CC 2.0.
“Midnight in Quarantine” is a poem that was waiting for its moment. The first draft of this poem was not written during the quarantine nor was it midnight. It was written on a November afternoon while I was trying to work and my neighbor’s pit, Tayger, started barking wildly. I have known him for so long. He gruffly serenades me in the evening as I water my front yard. Sometimes I spray my hose through the fence, and he jumps joyfully and bites at the stream of water. My poem was not about these moments but about how I wished he would stop so I could finish the work I did not want to do. After I wrote the first draft, I put it to the side because it was an image, a thought; it did not vibrate with purpose.
A month or so into quarantine, I was wide-awake past midnight, my insomnia taking over, when Tayger started to bark. It reminded me of how one night, many years ago, I had gone outside to see why he was particularly animated, and to my surprise, I saw a coyote trotting down the middle of the street. That night he would not stopped barking even though the danger had long since passed. Then, I remembered my unfinished poem.
In the late hours of quarantine anxiety, I could not stop thinking about the state of the world, the plans I had to erase from my calendar, my children holed up in their rooms, the inequality and injustice in this country, the people put in danger by our collective inaction. Then the barking started, and I understood Tayger: trapped, trying to make sense of a danger, visible and invisible, that trotted unfettered through the streets of our lives. It was then that this poem finally found its moment.