Most of the Lights

Since becoming immersed in my latest work-in-progress, I find myself awash in the angst of the coming-of-age milieu.

This is when young women are set loose in the exhilarated world, while also at the same time being introduced to the inexorable weight of adulthood. I recall memories of the party-seeker on the cusp of realization, learning, gradually, that the more you chase thrills in lieu of happiness, the faster it evades you—and the more the delusion depletes you. In that light, I present song lyrics I’ve written and almost forgotten, which drape over my brain like a watermark pressed onto a page years ago:


Now and then I take my life in my hands.


Now it’s time for me to put my sandals on, let them scratch across the street.

They leave little scars like Jesus’s as they learn to settle on my feet.

And the people roll like traffic cars,

And they never look the same way twice.

A delivery boy hears me talk to myself.

Still he whispers I look nice.

Now and then I take my life in my hands.


So tomorrow I’ll meet a passing fool who is famous, or almost.

Flirt with nameless, light-eyed bartenders.

Swallow cool against my throat.

And it’s dark in here, but it’s atmosphere, and it’s everything to go.

I won’t blink—I can’t—I won’t miss anything.

For what it’s worth, I make the most of the lights.


I wander out of a neon crowd, meet the guy who played guitar.

And my ears are ringing in my driver’s seat.

I get robbed right in my car.

So I’m staring numb at this girl outside

Who has earrings longer than her skirt.

Got a ticket stub and a purse strap left.

I am silent.

I’m not hurt.


Now and then I take my life in my hands.

Garden balconies and men with tin cans.

Is it brighter here by day or by night?

I’m alone and I’m afraid and I’m tired.

Will this world take my life?





photo, Laureen Runkle

** Winner, Third Place, Poetry, Pennwriters 2017 “In Other Words” contest