The Alien Crossing Guard
Finally, in fifth grade they gave me
the white belt and shoulder strap
and put me on the streets to monitor
crossings half a block from school,
and for three days I did just fine—
there weren’t many cars or kids.
But then came a day I lost track
of time, lured into a waking
dream, and following that whiff
of strangeness, deserted my post
and woke far from school to streets
grown unfamiliar in my absence.
An hour had passed. I hurried back
as if haste could reverse the loss.
This was long ago. No one panicked
or called the cops. They waited,
and when I returned, the principal
demanded why I’d strayed so long.
“The time . . .” Fear stole my words.
And where? “I haven’t got a clue.”
Needless to say, he stripped me
of the straps and sign, thus ending
my budding career as public servant.
Parents, friends—no one understood.
But later I found others in the same
predicament, transfixed by wonder,
drawn from road or yard to alien skies
on errands they could not recall,
then in a sudden waking returned
not far from where they’d been,
to gaze bewildered at the night sky,
while shifting lights faded to a point.
They too lost time and came back
to a world transformed and the scorn
of unbelievers. They too in self-
defense began to speak in poetry.
Richard Spilman is the author of In the Night Speaking and of a chapbook, Suspension.