The Middle of the Night

Dark Poetry by Marcus Bales

for Mark Totterdell

I’ve had that dream: the hard official knock
made louder by the acid culture of fear
that eats resistance down and ends in shock
obeying orders to gather whatever mere
necessities are close — and do not talk! —
as uniforms embody faceless might
and all the neighbors come outside to gawk.
I’m on a train. It’s the middle of the night

But this is not that dream; this train is real,
though brutally mundane, at least mundane.
There’s no commanding voice or gun to deal
unpleasant orders, only traveler’s strain:
missing home, a pillow, maybe a meal
from losing track of time, but not from fright
or force, though dozing I’m awakened by a squeal:
I’m on a train. It’s the middle of the night.

The heat inside is pleasant, though the glass
is cold and dark and fogged up with my breath;
the seat is soft, and bits of polished brass
suggest that time and care can put off death
as far as light can reach and we can see.
The dark outside encapsulates this light.
I think about how bad that it could be
On a train in the middle of the night.

Conductor! You, I know, will choose the station
Where I’m put off, no matter if it’s right
Or not in my resisting estimation,
Of a train in the middle of the night.


Not much is known about Marcus Bales, except that he lives in Cleveland and his poems have not been published in the New Yorker or Poetry.


About ljmcdowall

LJ McDowall is a Scottish poet, author, and scholar. She writes in the chivalric tradition, which means that she performs a kind of sympathetic magic with stories. Her work has appeared online and in print, and is preparing her first novel for publication. She is founding editor at The Quarterday Review and poetry editor at Trigger Warnings. LJ McDowall is an associate member of the Society of Authors.
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