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Sean Thomas Dougherty

I Am Scared of the Seam in the Air  

(for Malena Morling)




Scared of a world of shadows, a world of late afternoon’s long light, 


scared of the rust dusked gloaming when we walk home alone.  Scared of


boredom and watching it rise, of wanting a coat, of running past the empty


steel plant along the twelfth street tracks and being struck by the broken


glassed emptiness, that space like a burnt-out cathedral, and falling to my


knees, empty as the space where men once worked the machines, the

absent space of voices.



Do you ever hear them, Sasha asks.   Who? The voices of men


or my lovers?  All of them! She says, the swirling voices, the ones that rise

off the train or the lake at dusk?  The ones from inside you.   The lost


voices.  Or are they ever lost? 


Smoke faded into the black seam.  Or are they arc-welded? 


Voices weeping, voices going blind, trying to read the Brailed air


 in the gray light the voices of men, hard to decipher, speaking


into their gloved hands, waiting in a doorway in the rain to hear about





Sasha, I don’t hear the voices of those violent rooms,  perhaps you are right.  Though I do hear the voices of the stories my lover tells me, the mother of my child, she who has left graffiti across town.  I see her with her own ex lover, cutting the chain link fence to the closed down Paper Mill, making friends with the abandoned pitt bull, cutting the copper wire to sell for scrap.  I hear her hand writing the bad checks, her nights running dope, I rub these voices from her skin until they become just stories she tells, until even they become nothing more than once I did that, this, old paint, varnished over, hidden with distance till they become part

of the gone worlds we inhabit, only when the voices return when we are alone.


Sasha says, my voices come to me at night.  That is when you hear me dance.  I wear the headphones and dance with my eyes closed.  That is why the sound of my feet is silent.



They become part of you, no?   Sasha asks. 


Is that why you cannot grieve them?   I puff on my cigarette.  


In her hands a white blouse  embroidered turquoise, the laundry


on the line fluttering in the high wind blowing off the lake, blue shawls,


white sun dresses gold hand-stitched by her mother. 


The high whine of Jesus’ electric toy car whizzing


across the corner.    Once, I said, when my woman left


I told her, now without you I will not become


who I was supposed to be ….


Sasha stares at me, does not say a word.  But then, I tell Sasha,


I realized that is not true because in losing someone we become someone


else, someone, maybe, more human.  Sasha nods.  Perhaps it is our losses


that give us the capacity to give? 


It is not grief  we should carry but gratitude.


If we are able, Sasha says, to forgive.



Sasha hangs her blouse.  Her dark hair

blowing rivulets into the watery-

sunlight of the air. She is seventeen,

 her English getting better.  

She will soon leave for school. 

She has learned to drive.  Soon the geography

of her own dreams.   Soon the nightshift, like her father,

in the last factories on the edge of the great lake,

or the stock shelf, or the needles

of her mother’s hands, or a book.  

She is done, the laundry is folded. 

The light is Spanish today, yellow

and Russian blue, Sasha says I must go upstairs.



Now I must go as we all must go.  


You will not see her again, except


when you look everywhere, as I see you


everywhere, when I look inside


myself  I see you, as I see Sasha, humming a hymn,  her voice


floating out into the air, filling the invisible seams


into which we fall from one another and disappear.






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