The Watchman

by Nicolette Wong

The coffins pile up gnawing dust on the glass panes to the rims of my binoculars. Shadowy cracks of stifling proportions, gliding over my eyes a requiem of mahogany. At dawn they heave between the workers’ hands, leave their resting places for a green trail on concrete to the pier. A last ride across the sea before the dead swallow fire.

I’m a free man the instant mercury bursts across the sky.

In an ivory-colored booth I sit with a plastic badge hanging from my neck to the buzz of wrecked meters and slit wires crawling toward my nippy rings. On some nights there are more empty slots than I can count, or the wooden jigsaw multiplies itself to hit the ceiling. None of this matters when I slip out of my uniform.

My wife saw my binoculars once. The building across the street? she said, hissing under her breath.Go cleanse yourself or don’t come to bed.

She doesn’t see my fingers on cold metal like I see hers flipping the switch of her plastic love. Alone in our nest she reenacts the crux of flapping legs. Up. Down. Up. Down to the concentric patterns of a black hole reverberating around week-old stains. Does she blow halos above her head or someone else’s when I’m not looking?

I can’t kill that surround sound through my bones. My halo is burning down this booth. I’m gasping for air where the coffins are floating behind rust. Somebody, breathe with me.