At the Edge of the Soil. by Luis Neer

It was after curfew
I was in town, in the alley
with Margaret and Jordan,
the streetlamps shouting white light,
and I took off my socks and shoes
and felt gravel biting frozen at my feet.

Jordan said to me, “Let’s go to the overlook.”
I said to him, “Let’s run!”

We started to run,
the night sky
silent, preparing to swallow the planet,
and Margaret with arms extended,
the street fading around the edges like a photograph,
and we reached the overlook,
all out of breath,

and we ran to the edge and looked out
over the water
over a fence of stone bricks
and the Ohio River looked back at us,
its ten thousand eyes gleaming
with light absorbed from some alien electricity—

I couldn’t find the moon
and howled at the stars,
and the stars howled their light to the river—

Margaret climbed over the bricks
and I asked, “Margaret, what are you doing?”
“It’s okay,” she said, “there’s a ledge down here!
It’s long enough to sit down on!”

I climbed over
and Jordan muttered, “You guys are insane,”
but Margaret was right, the ledge
didn’t seem so dangerous
once I sat down beside her

and there was an iron bar down there,
behind our heads,
and we stood up and grabbed it
and looked down over the ledge
into the rolling water
and Margaret said, “We could die at any second!”
I said, “That’s always true.”

“I feel particularly alive,” she said.
“We’re at the edge of the soil,” I said.

Jordan muttered that he was walking home
and I climbed back over the bricks,
helped Margaret over
and we ducked back into the street,
passed a row of sagging houses

but Jordan stopped walking
and stood looking at
the last house on the street,
two stories, gray in the darkness.

He said, “My uncle died there.”

“There?” I asked.

“On that roof,” he said.

I said, “Let’s stop and regard it for a minute.”

“I don’t know,” he said. “It always makes me feel weird.”

I reached up and put my hand on his shoulder.
“It’s alright to feel weird,” I said.
“Fill the night like a suitcase, and carry it with you.”

The stars burned so brightly
the streetlamps seemed so tired

we watched our shoes move on the dark street

and made our way back.

Luis Neer is a young poet, painter and high school student from West Virginia. He is an alumnus of the creative writing program at the 2014 WV Governor’s School for the Arts, and his poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Maudlin House; Literary Orphans; Right Hand Pointing; The Rain, Party & Disaster Society and elsewhere. He tweets @LuisNeer.