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REFRAIN

When you are given
a piece of black paper in school
and taught to make a cube,
you carry it home in your hand
and though it comes home
damaged under the maples
you learn to press it
with a strictness
against your thigh
to keep its shape
at attention by your bed.
Call it a cage
for the evening:
a cage for the pixelated dark
in which move the night’s
infinite animals,
who thrive on the inside faces
of your walls,
over your body, and dance
on your twenty nail beds.
Outdoors
in the broader shape
of the neighborhood,
larger versions shift across
the streets and lawns.
Street lamps light their haunches
as if they can only be seen
in retreat: two legs, an arm,
and a glimpse of their backs,
no faces or mouths––
like the video copies
of your small frame
you try to capture
whenever you’re lead beneath
a grocery store’s screens.
And when you wake,
your cube has unfolded itself
to sunlight, to the dusting
and wiping down of your room.
You can play,
but there are errands waiting for you
in the afternoon:
you know the routine.

____
Peter Mishler is a public school English teacher living in Syracuse, NY. He was educated at Emerson College and Syracuse University. His poems have appeared in a variety of journals including Crazyhorse, LIT, New Ohio Review, Ninth Letter and The Antioch Review.

 
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