TOM BARLOW

Gathering Shadows 

By the bay window at dawn,
shabby robe, watching the sun-catcher spin, 
crossword completed, obituaries under 

my coffee cup. I am tempted to step into 
the garden, pick a rose to place behind my ear 
like the flamenco dancers in Barcelona did—

perhaps this is my own memory. Who knows?
The phone seldom insists, and then unexpected 
as the hammering of the MRI, and rarely with

better news. My phone book gathering 
shadows, my name not yet struck through. 
Autumn stretches into afternoon

Neufchatel, saltines and lemonade in the garden 
amidst milkweed, butterfly cocoons 
all empty, all fled. I won’t permit myself 

the bed this early there will be plenty of that. 
The clock announces midnight, two am, 
four am, each toll a ladder rung, 

uneasy slumber serving only to divide 
the pills of bedtime from those of morning.
Daybreak, and I dwell again on 

deadened hours I worked a lifetime to hoard, 
expecting I would thank myself in the future. 

What was I thinking. 

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