Friday, 24 April 2020

Keeping Watch

by Carrie Vaccaro Nelkin

Winter’s silence, winter’s darkness,
refuge against the streets.
Walls she can keep dim or make glow,
space she can imagine a French garden
with cornets and hautboys,
or a blue-sizzle club with sax and piano,
or nothing,
just the dripping of the shower,
the creaking of the floorboards,
her own breathing.
Safety, discreetness, discreteness
from the merchants gazing out
through shop windows from sale
to meager sale, the brawny young studs
mustached and tattooed breakfasting at the bar,
the middle-aged men
grouped in early evening before the deli,
standing and looking, standing and talking
the way they say women do, their eyes
following her determined walk
as they follow anyone new
or not male or not white. She could
so easily pass
for one of theirs but
for her wary gait.
On the streets she feels like
the white fly among the black,
the black bear in the Arctic,
the one plant above the snowline. Inside
she can listen to her bourees and blues
and peer out the windows at voices
to catch the speakers at their most disarmed
and candid
and measure if one day they might be
friend or foe.

* * * * *

"Keeping Watch" was originally published in Shadow Road Quarterly (September 2013)

Carrie Vaccaro Nelkin’s poems have appeared in Third Wednesday, Grasslimb Journal, Poppy Road Review, Connecticut River Review, Poetry Quarterly, and other places. Carrie is author of the novel Snare (The Waiting Dark) and has stories in journals like Bards and Sages Quarterly, Supernatural Tales, and Luna Station Quarterly.


  1. Evokes a Graham Greene or John le Carré milieu. She's the perfect self-contained outlier--spy or a fugitive.

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