Wet Carpet Awakening

By Kevin Stein

Featured art: Europeans Embracing by an unidentified artist

Cursing the stubbed-toe 2 a.m. call—my father?

I picked up a woman’s feather-brushed gush, “Wilbur,

it’s a grandson! Jamaal José O’Bryant.”

And I, unhappily not Wilbur, croaked Wrong number as one does

when plucked frog-eyed off sleep’s lily pad.

She was old. Who else misdials the pay phone’s tiny numbers?

Who else marries a Wilbur, their grandchild an American blend?

Outside rain misted not cats and dogs but litters of kittens.

Her lavender sachet apology, my bed-headed threnody,  my 

No problem, and click. Lightning cracked night’s black egg

in halves I couldn’t tap back in place:

My father’s dead. I’m next.

Revelation arrives like that, thunder trailing the flash.

I rode the open window’s wet carpet awakening,

storm flipping its toggle above the wind-blown yarrow,

electric as any newborn. Shaggy, late autumn, nearly gone-to-seed-

bloom, naked ecstatic.

I floated my trial run out a window the rain had come

in. When the dark made light of me I was.


Kevin Stein has published 11 books of poetry, scholarship, and anthology, including the collections American Ghost Roses and Wrestling Li Po for the Remote. His Poetry’s Afterlife: Verse in the Digital Age traces the roots of our current American poetic moment and outlines its future evolution. Stein served as Illinois Poet Laureate from 2003-2017.

Originally published in NOR 9 Spring 2011

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