I wake to the sound of a snowdrift shed

from the roof like antlers shrugged off by a deer

or like that molting time when birds

stay flightless a while to grow themselves back.

The snap-boom of the slap against the ground.

In the trees outside the snow falls a second time

only when it breaks its first resting place. 

Through the walls thin as the kind of lingerie

worn for show a man is listening

to opera, the keening soaks the air but quietly.

It is five a.m. in the winter blue dark. It makes

the sound like something making music with itself,

you know the way crickets rub their wings

to announce their need. As if that loud friction

is a way out of knowing. Once,

I sneezed and the man across the wall

said “bless you” as if to say it was not a violation

of some sacred illusion of separation.

Many nights I hear him call his mother.

Sometimes in the wake between two fits of sleep

I am certain he wants to die.

Still I imagine him across the hall

like something half-made

a form knit around the sound of a voice

blood-filled but somehow boneless

skin soft and thin as membrane

and I know we are the same the way

in dreams you know what something is

even when it looks like something else.

Do you enjoy reading the Nass?

Please consider donating a small amount to help support independent journalism at Princeton and whitelist our site.