Nothing’s There

the little thing you were when
here to there was impossible,
when to move or make a sound
could invite disaster, if you
hesitated, no one ever said
there’s nothing to be afraid of,
what they said was
there’s nothing there, but
there was always something
there– there under the bed,
in the backseat of the car, in the
front seat of the car, in the trunk,
in the woods, under the covers,
under the house, in the bathtub,
the attic, the pantry, in the
basement, in pockets, in shoes,
in packages arriving in the mail,
in the walls and in the floors, until
you just shut up about it and it
moved out into the world with you,
always there waiting for some
lapse in vigilance or wrong move,
there in playgrounds and yards,
in classrooms and lockers and
janitor’s closets, in the houses
of neighbors or relatives or friends,
in the coach’s boy who knocked
you down and jumped up and down
on your chest while the moms were
inside having tea, or the kid who
cut you in sunday school, and you
never said a fucking word, always
then something there in dorm rooms
and barrooms, in apartments and
in city parks and zoos, in all dim
entryways and closets everywhere,
in elevators, there in airplanes and
trains and buses and subways,
especially in subways, but by then
you always itched to call it out,
to call its bluff, something there in
national parks and international
travel, in the guy at the border
gesturing with that machine gun,
there in the future, in the present,
in the past, in lovers and spouses,
yours and others, in staying, in
going, not staying, not going, in
assholes at work and half-assed
friends, and then despite all the
things you did to protect everyone
you loved and anything you
treasured from all the somethings
always there, it’s up in here all
big in your face in your house in
what’s left of your life, there in all
the places where you ever lived
and all the arms in which you ever
writhed or rested, there in every
place where you sought solace
or love or peace or equanimity,
there where everything else emptied
out and you knew many of the ways
it could be really true that nothing’s
there, there it was, the thing that
saying nothing’s there guarantees,
that something that doesn’t love life
is there and always has been there
in all the up-close and closed-in
places like where you first saw it
and feared it and just wanted it to
go away, there in the dark, in
the dark, in the dark

. . .

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