POETRY: Nighthawks

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (SCPDA) — Trystan Loustau is Jacksonville’s first annual Youth Poet Laureate and “Nighthawks” is one of numerous poems that will be featured in her first book, “Hidden in the Silence,” which is set to be published next January.

“I couldn’t get out of bed for two weeks. I just felt stuck.” That is how one of my close friends described his decline into depression. He is one of thousands of teenagers who account for the rapidly increasing rates of depression among young adults in America. Some students at Stanton College Preparatory School know this struggle all too well. In recognition of this often overlooked mental illness, I wrote the narrative poem below to raise awareness about its severity.


nighthawks_by_edward_hopper_1942


“Nighthawks”

Inspired by Edward Hopper’s 1942 oil painting, first shown to me by a friend. 

He always walked

With his head down

With his top hat tilted

Toward the damp road

It was quiet and dark

He cast his gaze below

On the cracked pavement

And gravelly bits of cement

He never took any chances

 

Following the familiar shadows like a map,

His boots met the grooves of the concrete

With a habitual crunch

He had walked the same path

In the same shadows

Under the same moon

For twenty years

Navigating his way through

Out of sight

Since he was a child

Since he learned how to fear the light

Since he learned how to hide

In the blackness

Always hiding in the blackness

Always hiding

Never seen

 

As he turned onto the open street,

His fingers curled around

The rope in his coat pocket

Maybe this time he would really do it

 

Every inch

Every thread

Every second

Had been planned

In the soft glow of

A lonely flame

 

It would be miserably beautiful

Glorious in every unmasking ray

 

This time he would really do it

Hang like a broken tree limb

From the streetlight in the

Center of the square

 

It would be hideous

But they would flock

To him all the same

Unfailing moths

 

Shock and relief

Would blend into a

Single tapestry

Their mouths gaping

Like puppets on a string

Their eyes averting

Heads turning

 

They would feel the

Liquid satisfaction of a

Monster’s spilled blood

Traces of a lonely life

Seeping into the mud

They would shed tears

Not of sympathy

But of fear

Quickly moving curious children

Lips curling in disgust

It would be glorious

 

He tied the loops

His swift fingers were confident

His movements were steady

Pieces of rope flew into position

He was the conductor

Of his own end and

His final breath would

Inhale the night

The safe night

His only refuge from

Sunlight’s betrayals

His only home

 

With the triple knot around his neck

He inhaled a sharp breath

But the silence was split by

A scream in the distance

High-pitched and screechy

Like a bird

 

His fingers trembled and

He almost slipped

Intent on achieving

The perfect moment,

He followed the noise

Down a short road

Listening as it grew louder

Morphing into a woman’s laughter

He turned the corner

Suddenly illuminated

By the bright lights of

A small bar open

Later than usual

Through the great glass

Windows he could see

A young man with a

White apron and

Eyes like the sea

Serving drinks to a couple

Sitting at the counter

The last two people inside

 

The woman laughed once again

Looking at the man

His suit was a dark blue and

His features clearly defined

Almost as if the sculptor had

Forgotten to smooth out his lines

His nose was the most dominant

Curving out like a beak

She looked at him with wide eyes

Her hair was blazing

She was beautiful

 

She was beautiful and

She was looking right at him

Suddenly they were all

Looking right at him

The woman with hair like fire

The man with the face of a bird

The boy with ocean eyes

 

Looking at him with queer expressions

Ones he couldn’t recognize

But they were smiling and

For the first time

Since he was a child

He felt welcome in the light

As these three strangers

Took in this strange man

Like three doves befriending

A hawk in the night

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