From the Archives: “A Starlit Night” by B.H. Fairchild

August 21, 2012

We’re digging deep this week, back to one of our favorite pieces from the journal’s first issue in the summer of 2003.

B. H. Fairchild, the author of several acclaimed poetry collections, has been a finalist for the National Book Award and winner of the William Carlos Williams Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. He lives in Claremont, California.. His ”A Starlit Night,” originally published in 32 Poems 1.1, was later featured on The Writers Almanac and appeared in Fairchild’s 2004 Early Occult Memory Systems of the Lower Midwest.

A Starlit Night

All over America at this hour men are standing
by an open closet door, slacks slung over one arm,
staring at wire hangers, thinking of taxes
or a broken faucet or their first sex: the smell
of back-seat Naugahyde, the hush of a maize field
like breathing, the stars rushing, rushing away.

And a woman lies in an unmade bed watching
the man she has known twenty-one, no,
could it be? twenty-two years, and she is listening
to the polonaise climbing up through radio static
from the kitchen where dishes are piled
and the linoleum floor is a great, gray sea.

It’s the A-flat polonaise she practiced endlessly,
never quite getting it right, though her father,
calling from the darkened TV room, always said,
“Beautiful, kiddo!” and the moon would slide across
the lacquered piano top as if it were something
that lived underwater, something from far below.

They both came from houses with photographs,
the smell of camphor in closets, board games
with missing pieces, sunburst clocks in the kitchen
that made them, each morning, a little sad.
They didn’t know what they wanted, every night,
every starlit night of their lives, and now they have it.

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