Nowhere, Man – Poem by Derek Harmening

Poetry Derek Harmening

On the last day of my twenties
A soft snow fell.
Quietly, almost apologetically,
As though embarrassed at having burdened us all
With the memory
Of winter.
It hugged the narrow sidewalk like a fitted sheet,
Covering treacherous ice held over
From last week’s freeze,
And thaw,
And freeze.

On my way to work I passed
A spent Busch Light can in a dead garden,
And a Domestic Uniform Rental truck, its panels
Grimed with salt and dirt.
I heard bootheels clicking behind me,
And hugged the grass to clear a path,
But when I turned
I saw no one,
Just the faint ghosts
Of my own Bullboxers.

I took lunch alone,
Huddled over a polystyrene box
Of fried, breaded chicken
drizzled with Crystal’s hot sauce,
And felt resolutions wilting
Before they’d begun
To bloom.

At dusk I jogged to Lake Michigan,
Breathed its sandstone waves
Suspended in increments
By cold and persistence.

Walking home,
I tried to spot a rabbit–
Their placid twilight grazing
Is a comfort, as if
They were not simply docile pests
But omens bearing tidings of good fortune–
Though none appeared.

Instead I saw, half-buried in snow,
The same, week-old newspaper
Peeking like Punxsutawney,
Glinting beneath the streetlamps
From within its pink sheath
Like a long-forgotten gift.

I stopped long enough
At the little free library
To catch my reflection and,
Beyond it,
A copy of Nowhere Man,
Aleksander Hemon’s chronicle of
A Sarajevan refugee
During the Bosnian War.
The book’s spine, superimposed
On my tired countenance,
Seemed to supplant
My sighting of the rabbits.

I thought, then, of those
Whom I loved
More than they knew,
And of those
Who loved me
More than I knew.
I brought the book home with me,
And placed it on the arm of the sofa
Upon which I would celebrate
Another revolution
With Elijah Craig and orange peels
In a galaxy far, far away.

About the Poet

Derek Harmening’s work has been published in Kirkus Reviews, Newcity, 101 Words, and Quivering Pen among others. His flash fiction story ‘Stitches’ was the recipient of the 101 Words Editors’ Choice award in February 2017.

2 thoughts

  1. Superb. Every word counts. I think this is what folks mean when they say “well-crafted writing.” No amateurism, no uncertainty or look-I’m-a-poet! here. One of the very best pieces VITA BREVIS has ever posted. The contemporary brandnames place us squarely in the 21st Century, increasing the intensity of the wonder, as the ending whips us back to 18th Century religiosity and then forward along a trail of orange peels to “a galaxy far, far away” (which also revolves, as do delicate images and thoughts throughout the poem). Kudos!

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