Near – by John Riley

I wake in the middle of the night
when the world is at its darkest
and wish there was a wood box
storing fuel for a fire, and that I
could walk across a cold floor
to throw a thick piece of wood
that smelled of whatever shit it
had lain closest too in the woods
into the stove to flame and return
and sit on a sagging single bed
to calculate without pen or app
how far up through the water
a whale would have to rise
to turn from stone to star
and warn us prison is made
of bone and skin and a thought,
or wish it was still possible
to lasso and ride the star’s bent ray,
flash past the spinning planets
and end as a bright shimmer across
a puddle come morning’s first light,
and wonder how it would feel to rest
across the water with no concern for time
for I would be the time that passed
without drawing the attention
of this world or the next.

John RileyJohn Riley is a former teacher. He has published poetry and fiction in Smokelong Quarterly, Banyan Review, Panoply, Bindweed, Litro, and many other journals and anthologies online and in print. EXOT Books will publish a volume of 100 of his 100-word prose poems in the fall of 2022. He has published over forty books of nonfiction for young readers.