The Garden

The tuxed-up drunk, trembling the dorm’s lobby window
when a bottle tipped him over. His squint not at me but past me
to the one hundred keys glittering behind my post,

the check-in desk, where all summer, I worked the Saturday
insomnia shift. The ruse of looking down at the marble notebook,
one-one thousand, then looking up: the drunk gone, like a movie ghost.

The prank caller, the phone a bee-sting sound.
The paper I had to write to undo my grade of “Incomplete,”
something about Eden, something to please my professor.

Tumbling from the nightclub: the samba amateurs,
some still whistling and writhing. Cigarettes cracking balloons.
Like archangels, the narcs patrolling closed Union Square.

Kamikaze, Titanic, Banshee: all the sweet nicknames I knew for heroin.
Saying them, obeying them, to feel the lull. To not feel.
The dancers whose other moves frightened me

nights I worked sober: they trashed themselves;
the place, the park, could be the garden again only if
they vanished. This much I knew about Eden.

And that I wasn’t safe: I needed to look outside.
The desk radio refreshed deaths and sped-read
the conditions—traffic and weather—

no obit could overrule.
Early morning the beautiful victim, noon the coroner.
The dancers writhed.

Michael Tyrell’s poems have appeared in many magazines, including Agni, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, and The Yale Review. With Julia Spicher Kasdorf, he edited the anthology Broken Land: Poems of Brooklyn.