Waking up in the Dark 

I walk into a morning bathed

in the flicker of street lights

prior to the false hope

of a new dawn. I’m among

drug addicts, drug dealers

and prostitutes, never to give

them my money again,

money I intend to spend at 7-11

on coffee and an overpriced pack

of Chesterfields, two things

I enjoy while sitting

on a curb and writing

poems in the gutter,

where everything

has gotten to be too real

for me as I watch the world

slowly tumble apart

all around me. I had

begun to discover myself

for the first time, like

a talent agent who was going

to make himself the biggest star

in the world. A homeless

woman sits down next to me

on a bus stop bench and asks me

if I have any shit she can smoke.

I tell her never again would

I be lost in the fog

of a paranoid howl

in the alleyways she still

ran up and down

as we become illuminated

by the sun in order to see

the dirty truth all around us

so I can rub it into a weary

and forgotten prayer.

Kevin Ridgeway is the author of Too Young to Know (Stubborn Mule Press). Recent work has appeared in SlipstreamChiron ReviewNerve CowboyMain Street RagCultural WeeklyGasconade Review,The American Journal of PoetrySan Pedro River ReviewThe Cape Rock and So it Goes:  The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, among others.  A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, he lives and writes in Long Beach, CA.