The Alien Crossing Guard by Richard Spilman

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.