Nighthawks

by Terry Ofner
The Waters
Second Place, September 2016
Judged by Lee Nash


Montréal. Small rain. 4am.
I find the only open cafe.
A homeless man

sleeps upright in a chair,
slumped into himself
like a sack of grain.

The woman at the end—
a soda bottle in both hands
like a joystick. She’s fixed

on something out there
in the dark, could be taxiing
for take-off.

The betterment of humanity
could start. Salvation
comes wrapped in the body

to keep it from floating away.

Salvation comes.
Lifting, lifting. Pulleys
of morning light.

Rain rising, lifting.
Wet wings of sidewalks
and street.


I kept coming back to this sparse poem with its sketch of the all-night café and the sense of hopelessness those first four stanzas evoke. But we don't stay in that place, thankfully, as morning brings salvation and light. The rain that fell in the opening line somehow seems to rise. This new day may be difficult too, but remember, it's how you look at things: "betterment ... could start." --Lee Nash

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