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Light at 4am


At 3:30 AM, knuckles rap on my bedroom door,

and my eyes, crusted with sleep, crack open.

While I sleepwalk into a pull-over sweater and slip on some Chucks,

my mom pulls open the front door

To let the cold air’s stinger

Prick my face until I am awake.

The morning haze pools at my feet,

Seeps into my layered clothes,

Until I am soaked in the cold.

The ice crusted on the windshield

Cracks and splinters as I pour water on it.



Driving down Manning, we can only hear

the engine’s soft hum

And the wind that seeps into the

cracked rear window;

The green traffic lights

 blur past our heads while we slink through a vacant city.

The empty lot holds a few other

sleepwalkers like me, who keep warm and alive in

Coffee cups, hand warmers, and snowball beanies.

Mom kisses my nose, shouts pick me up at 10:00 AM,

and shuffles through the cold and into the

lighted double doors of Big Lots.



The moon dips back into the skyline

And drives the stars, the car, and my body back home.

Outside my house, with my key clicked into the lock,

I am compelled to stand still and listen—

the baying coyote who lives in the grapevines,

the humming lights of the 24-hour laundromat,

and the pomegranate tree rooting itself into the ground

are loud enough to keep me awake until dawn.

--Gabriella Q., Adult