The cop holds me up like a fish;
he feels the huge bones
surrounding my eyes,
and he runs a thumb under them,
lifting my eyelids
as if they were
envelopes filled with the night.
Now he turns
my head back and forth, gently,
until I'm so tame and still
I could be a tiny, plastic
skull left on the
dashboard of a junked car.
By now he's so sure of me
he chews gum,
and drops his flashlight to his side;
he could be cleaning a trout
while the pines rise into the darkness,
though tonight trout
are freezing into bits of stars
under the ice. When he lets me go
I feel numb. I feel like
a fish burned by his touch, and turn
and slip into the cold
night rippling with neons,
and the razor blades
of the poor,
and the torn mouths on posters.
Once, I thought even through this
I could go quietly as a star turning over and over
in the deep truce of its light.
Now, I must
go on repeating the last, filthy
words on the lips
of this shunken head
shining out of its death in the moon—
until trout surface
with their petrified, round eyes,
and the stars begin moving.
for Philip Levine