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By Tracy K. Smith

5pm on the nose. They open their mouths

And it rolls out: high, shrill and metallic.

First the boy, then his sister. Occasionally,

They both let loose at once, and I think

Of putting on my shoes to go up and see

Whether it is merely an experiment

Their parents have been conducting

Upon the good crystal, which must surely

Lie shattered to dust on the floor.

Maybe the mother is still proud

Of the four pink lungs she nursed

To such might. Perhaps, if they hit

The magic decibel, the whole building

Will lift-off, and we’ll ride to glory

Like Elijah. If this is it – if this is what

Their cries are cocked toward – let the sky

Pass from blue, to red, to molten gold,

To black. Let the heaven we inherit approach.

Whether it is our dead in Old Testament robes,

Or a door opening onto the roiling infinity of space.

Whether it will bend down to greet us like a father,

Or swallow us like a furnace. I’m ready

To meet what refuses to let us keep anything

For long. What teases us with blessings,

Bends us with grief. Wizard, thief, the great

Wind rushing to knock our mirrors to the floor,

To sweep our short lives clean. How mean

Our racket seems beside it. My stereo on shuffle.

The neighbor chopping onions through a wall.

All of it just a hiccough against what may never

Come for us. And the kids upstairs still at it,

Screaming like the Dawn of Man, as if something

They have no name for has begun to insist

Upon being born.

TRACY K. SMITH will read from her work at 7 p.m. Thursday in a Canisius College Contemporary Writers Series event in the Grupp Fireside Lounge, in the Richard E. Winter Student Center, 80 Hughes Ave. She is the author of three collections of poems. She is the author of three collections of poems, “The Body’s Question” (2003), which won the Cave Canem prize for the best first book by an African-American poet; “Duende” (2007), winner of the James Laughlin Award and the Essence Literary Award; and “Life on Mars” (Graywolf Press, 2011), which won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. This poem originally appeared in “Life on Mars.”