A Short Piece

Of the night sleeps I remember none are short
as this one, stopping on the second line
of counting sheep to stare into the dark.
Outside, a baby’s screaming like a cat.
I pretend it is the other way around
and blank out themes I wrestled with in ‘Piece Work.’

One’s killing to save peace. It only works
for spans of time that are extremely short.
A chamber of the sort that takes a round
expels a load that tracks a laser line
from a man I’d called my neighbor towards the cat.
My eyes trace glaring red-blacks through the dark

into the trees. The morning starts off dark
and worsens with each step I walk to work.
On a tree I see a poster for a cat:
a child is missing. There’s another short
note penned below it: felt-tip single line
that the cat and child no longer are around.

My partner in our workplace shuns my round
of questions. Answers leave us in the dark
as they must for now; we only have the line
we gave each other when we came to work.
The lines of customers grow thin and short
and thinking comes in quietly as a cat.

We two, who once were proud of how we’d cat
around, when times were easy, have come round
to valuing what’s important now we’re short
of options, and we rage against the dark
together, as if rhetoric could work
a miracle. We want a party line.

‘Peace at all costs’ and ‘Do not cross this line’
compete, and we consider if the cat
survives its boxing; we ask whether work
will be an option if bad forces round
upon us and extinguish peace. The dark
unites us and cuts hopes and whining short.

We load our weapons for the coming round
of vigilance, hold lines against the dark,
and think our war successful. Peace is short.

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