Jim Daniels

The Alone-Doors
March 14, 2013 Daniels Jim

The Alone-Doors


Don’t try this at home.

Try this on a wet dark road

with an unpromising destination—


or just another useless errand

created by badly transcribed directions

for the good life

when all your calculations wash away

in the smear of steady rain softly

eroding the names of those you once called

best friend with all the sincerity and confidence

of a big-haired rock star on his first arena tour.



List the memories no one can

confirm, the alone-doors with the one key

spiked in your palm, burning off the acid

of nostalgia, tattooing the soft skin with loss

when all you want is to get it in the door

and turn and enter and witness again:

weeds behind the garage swaying tall

against the mesh fence like the long hair

of a girl you think you love who will die

with her braces on. The neighbor’s dog,

swollen with anonymous puppies,

her eyes softening as you pet her

stretched up against the fence.

The puppies disappear. The dog

disappears. You burn trash in a rusty barrel

and ash rises into the gray air

of Detroit spring, the last patch of snow

in the angle of shade, and the sun dial

of your young life turns out to be a chalk drawing

by the deaf-mute down the block

who kicked your ass once—why? why?

Memories recede like the line of snow.

A rubber ball bounces against a wall

and returns, bounces, returns. A wounded

sparrow hops crooked near the curb,

and you should find a way to put it out

of its misery but but but—the ball

bounces, returns, the comfort of the wall

and its resistance, the sky spiraling

into dusk, then night, and you’re aiming

for the one brick, the perfect strike,

cheating for yourself, you alone

against brick, time, and a dying sparrow

waiting for a cat, watching you with a hard eye,

its silent intrusion into the rest of your life.

Punished, you bent over the furnace vent

in the floating dust of the silent house.

The others all at the fall festival

and its traveling carnival of greasy rides

and sincere flirting. You, caught in a lie,

a twisted net of deceit your clumsy fingers

could not unravel, and all you have

is the furnace clicking on, and, hunched over,

you hog the heat, dismissing all other forms of prayer.

What did you lie about? Why did he

hit you? Who rode the tilt-a-whirl

with that girl? Hot breath whispered

against your face, into your hollow chest,

and you closed your eyes and listened.



Are you still with me, or are you nudging

whoever’s sitting next to you, tilting your head

toward the exit, slipping away to that “appointment”

you forgot about?

The authority of the speaker has left

the building. I admit the deceit

of instructions leading nowhere

but to my alone-door where I will greet you

like the invisible friend you imagined

for two weeks during a bad stretch.

I have been practicing my coffee-stained

smile and my knee-worn patience

in front of the vacated jury of my peers

just for you. I have dreamt the world’s

most comfortable chairs for us to sit in.

Listen, you will say. Remember? I’ll say.

Jim Daniels’ latest poetry collections include Gun/Shy, Wayne State University Press, and a chapbook, The Human Engine at Dawn, Wolfson Press. His next fiction collection, The Luck of the Fall, Michigan State University Press, is forthcoming in fall 2023. A native of Detroit, he lives in Pittsburgh and teaches in the Alma College low-residency MFA program.