Some Nights I Catch you Sleepwalk Waltzing

posted Jan 25, 2011

          with your grandfather's pipe
still puffing away in your arms.
          You turn to rocking it soft

          like an infant and cooing over it,
the copper manhole covers he stole
          from old Chicago

          shivering like bright pennies
below your feet. I always shift at night
          to lifting our house, pipes and all,

          to slow dance with it.
My angels are lazy and listen to me curse.
          They do not fit a single finger

          around the edges of the house to help me.
I follow you around until you grow tired
          in your sleeping of gusting

          out of gum wrappers and dust
sometimes twirling with your grandfather's pipe
          under those stage lamps that sizzle on

          like slow popcorn.
The music pipes between the brick
          houses as if night were no more than felt

          over our stereo speakers.
When you grow tired of foraging with your feet
          among the old elms that laced

          a kindly green arch over your childhood,
and under which you hot-footed it
          with electric lines playing Double Dutch;

          when you tire of threading your way
among those dying elms where you hop-scotched
          the street lunging in and out of tar pools;

          where you ponied up on the stirrups
of your banana seat bike to glide down that green
          and leafy throat along Somerset.

          When you stop dancing or threading
your way back through those skies that turned
          swift like pages ripping over your shoulders,

          you lie down like a fallen branch near the curb,
there where the water is rushing with its leafy boats
          and twigs, there where the water is pouring

          out of every stone and every brick.
I stack them like waterfalls one on top of each other
          and set down our house.

John Rybicki is the author of We Bed Down Into Water, and a contributor to The Best American Poetry 2009. His work has also appeared in Ploughshares, Bomb, Poetry, The North American Review, and others. He teaches at Alma College, changes tires part-time, and works for “Wings of Hope” Hospice teaching poetry writing to children who have been through a trauma or loss.

We’ve published eight more poems by Rybicki: “Smoke,” “Brother,” “Yellow-haired Girl with Spider,” “Julie Ovary Song,” “Two Movements for Martell Epperson,” “Near the Old Packard Plant,” “Night and its Strange Likeness to a Diego Rivera Mural,” and “It's Morning and I'm Trying on the Walls.”