Senses at night

Reposting David Wagoner’s 1970 walking at night. A lovely poem capturing the discombobulation of human sensoria in the darkness, a descent into temporary blindness, and in the context of the specialization of senses among nocturnal fauna:


After the sidewalk, after the last streetlight at the end

Of concrete crumbling into thickening weeds,

I begin Shuffling slowly off balance, my shadow’s feet gone slipshod

Under mine, as it stretches further and further into the night,

Now spindly, fading to nothing as quickly as I darken. I move, my legs more lost than in a swamp, going blind

Among the dead calm branches of a bush that knows Where its thorns belong, blundering star-nosed as a mole

Through rubble, slanting and slumping, shortcutting myself For no good reason: the last light shines where I abandoned it.

No wings, no antennae, no burning catch-all eyes, no echoes Whistling back from the shapes out of my reach, no starlight

Scratching a line of march over the smudged heavens: Nothing but streaks of cloud being rushed blue-gray as steel

Across the slammed vault of the sky, a moonless coffer, Where the only guides are the heart in my mouth, my body’s guesswork,

And sticks crackling under my feet as if in a dark fire.