Donna Ting Ho Issue: Section:

When streetlamps blush
on pink but arrive as sound
more than light, Frannie bikes
the block calling Star,
who’s lost again. Her voice
comes and goes, a thin treble
above the bass buzz of streetlamps,
or the whine of mosquitoes
when we camp in her backyard,
or Star’s whimper beneath a stranger’s car,
having gone one turn too far
at this hour when lights pose
as sound and Frannie’s voice
becomes an insect’s.
When the backlit figure
of the old man stooping to change
his reading lamp’s broken bulb
becomes the monster Star
always knew he was (barking
at his house each time we passed).
The same hour when suncrazed and full
of only each other
we arrive late at our respective dinner tables,
and for a moment our fathers’ stern faces
look like strangers’ faces.
When the dark sits like towers
above the streetlamps, we sprawl
on the still-warm curb
and watch for shooting stars,
our necks growing sore
and the bikes abandoned,
the old man no longer the lumbering monster
but the familiar shape reading
beneath the narrow cone of his lamp.
The change never
occurs to us,
no matter what we know
about that strange hour and its sounds.
We thought he would always be
there, like Star
the dog, summer,
its stars, each other.

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