Poem of the Week | August 29, 2016

This week, we are happy to feature a new poem by Brian Patrick Heston. Heston grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His poems have won awards from the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Foundation, the Robinson Jeffers Tor House Foundation, and the Lanier Library Association. His first book, If You Find Yourself, won the Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award and is available from Main Street Rag Publishing. He is also the author of the chapbook Latchkey Kids, which is available from Finishing Line Press. His poetry and fiction have appeared in such publications as North American Review, Prairie Schooner, Rosebud, Red Rock Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, Poet Lore, and River Styx. Presently, he is a Ph.D. candidate in Literature and Creative Writing at Georgia State University.
Author’s note:

Though “After the Night Shift” makes use of surreal imagery, it is somewhat biographical in nature. It is an attempt to capture the brutal nostalgia that follows when someone close and integral to your identity dies. The factories “like pyramids” were added in a later draft because the place of the poem is a conglomeration of the two neighborhoods where I grew up. Both neighborhoods were post-industrial and were filled with abandoned factories and warehouses. Such buildings took on mythological significance. You always knew that at one time they were useful, that people long dead once worked there, which created a longing to know what that past was like, even if you never experienced it yourself. Ultimately, this poem explores the past as a function of imagination, how once someone or something is lost, they can only exist in images. Yet in our imaginations, these images are reanimated into something resembling life, our one consolation in an existence rife with inevitable grief.


After the Night Shift


I see them still in their uniforms
after chasing the children to school.
Mothers search neglected closets
for buried prom dresses.
Fathers rummage attics
for musty tuxedos.


They waltz barefoot
up and down the stairs,
all leg-kicks and whirl,
shimmering blurs of black and teal.
Then they run out to empty streets


shouting pigeons to the sky
and skip Double Dutch
on gummy asphalt
to kid-chants still stuck in their minds.
As evening dawns over the abandoned factories


that haunt the avenue like pyramids,
I listen for their voices
in the smoggy winds.
I’m being called home


from the porch of the old house
with its cracked picture window
and potted flowers wilting on the sill.
We are all being called home


to sit with them in pale kitchens.
And the clock stalks forward—
every window fills with darkness,
yet no drowsy head nods
or quiet mouth yawns.
No one sleeps.