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40 | ecotone kevin prufer Sunday Afternoon in the Park Outside the retirement home a dog sleeps beneath a tree. A bus has been idling by that lamppost for half an hour. Some people still haven’t collapsed their umbrellas, and now the dog trots across the wet grass toward a girl no one notices by the swing set. Wait, I cried, but already the bus was pulling into the street with its load of sleeping travelers. And far below, the girl and her dog had vanished, too, in the other direction. Yes, it rained all morning, but then the sun came out. Someone decorated my room with the sounds of distant traffic. The whisper of wheels on linoleum, then footsteps. Pills, pills, pills, calls the crazy woman down the hall. How I love a cool Sunday morning high above the park after a rain. If I could, I would jump right through this window. | 41 The Poetry Conference The vampires were climbing the hill. ✶ The little boy, awake late in his tree house, watched them attain the summit, first one, then another, then several vampires silhouetted in the moonlight. ✶ I am reminded of my father, how he walked a similar path through his dusk while the wistful autumn leaves fell around him; I was, I fear, one of many small disappointments for this modest man, one of the vampires said. ✶ Soon, the area below his tree house was crowded with white-faced vampires looking pensively toward the distance. ✶ A lovely moon half concealed by the chimneys of that power plant is also a small disappointment, another vampire said. ✶ 42 | ecotone Regret, a third whispered, is the rain in the trees, it is those lightning bugs obscured by that bush, it is an empty car left by the side of a busy freeway far from this hill. ✶ The vampires smelled like the warm meals of their vanished childhoods. ✶ They sniffed the air. The boy, they sensed, would grow old one day, would sit on his porch looking over the backyard, toward the blinking lights of his mortgaged youth. ✶ Some of the vampires wrote this on little pads they otherwise kept in their breast pockets. ✶ In the tree house, the boy had tacked a squirrel’s pelt to the wall. He’d spent all day gutting it, cleaning it, smoothing it with stones. Of all his many pelts, this was the finest. ✶ He smiled as it sparked beneath his fingertips. kevin prufer | 43 Strange Lullaby after Auden In the flu-infected city, the schoolchildren sleep while overhead, the lead-inflected sky begins to weep. Child, child, child, their mothers say, cold cloths to their heads. The lamps beside them cast their glares from night tables to beds. Disease, like a light switch, voids the city. The children sleep or die. The sleeping dream of dying and the dead ones sleep awry. ...


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