The telephone-pole lights hummed blue
In shrill spots on the frozen dust.
In winter on a Wednesday, young
And damaged, grasping for fun
Drinking frigid vodka and punch
On a school night mixed
In plastic cups, videogames
Whispers, music, volume,
Hung about the busted room
Half lit in blue. My brother and I
At Tony’s house splayed out
On the half-wrecked couch
Slapped pills and joked and drank too fast,
Smoked the shake and seeds we had.

It always ended when we broke
Into lull of night, through the window
We’d prop open. There’s a kind of wind
That keeps things in the soft flings
Of its secret breath. It billowed
Lightly through the frame and
Carried us as phantoms then
Down through the glacial slope of dark,
Outside, to the woods behind the house,
That darkened copse beyond the pane,
The rushing sleep and reeling brain.

Lying down there, that last young breath,
My friends half-dead in an icy lounge,
That phantom-tingle of the limbs,
The air letting go of everything,
Stars burning up in violet streams,
The glittering ice that choked the creek,
Among looming trees that rose for years.
It seemed confounding then, but now,
So sweet:
I could never
The end of the night.


Josh Exoo


Poet's Commentary:  

This poem came to me as a sort of elegy wearing a comedy mask. Though no one in the poem speaks to me any longer, and though our youthful friendships were sundered by addiction and mental illness and death, I wanted to honor the seeming endlessness of the time we shared. It would be easy to look at those moments now as a sort of cautionary tale, or a prelude to tragedy, and many days I do. But my best self wanted to acknowledge their beauty, even if we were just getting high and playing videogames and listening to music. Even if we were just kids being worthless, I once knew a spirit of real camaraderie, a familial love for one another, that will never leave me completely alone.