Flickering Lights By My Window

For as long as I can remember, at the same time each night a flickering light has passed by my window. The light has always been followed by a shadow at precisely 11:59pm. It has been like a game, trying to catch them with my eyes before they disappeared into the night. I can never quite make them out and so couldn’t be sure but a million and one dreams have floated up about who or what they were and where they were headed. Whenever Winter has come I would be certain it was an old, homeless man trudging through the cold and wet cradling a grumbling stomach, however, by Springtime it was a young woman flying to or from her lover’s bed. In Summer, a dodgey teenager shuffled by carrying a six pack of beers under arm (and another six already fermenting in his belly) however by Autumn, a young girl, who had lost her way playing beneath the blanket of joyful leaves by day, now crept passed with wide, scared eyes surrounded by dark, looming skies.

I became accustomed to waiting for them before dropping off to sleep each night. But this is where my problem arises: last night they didn’t come. In fact, the previous night they hadn’t come either, or the night before that. Come to think of it, it had been a whole week since the last time I’d seen them. I haven’t so much as slept even a wink. No sleep has fallen. No dreams have come. No flickering lights have passed by. Day and night my mind is plagued by thoughts of them – where have they gone? Why aren’t they coming back? What if something terrible has happened? Could that poor man have died of starvation? Or the young woman strangled by a jealous lover? Perhaps the drunk teen was stabbed in a service station stealing a Mars Bar or that poor little girl has been snatched away by a drooling pedophile, never to be seen again…

Wherever they are, they have stolen my sleep and dragged it off to wherever they have ended up. My poor sleep: never to be seen again? My delicate sanity: snatched away from me?! I can’t go on like this! I’ll spend my life tossing and turning through the night and drooping in dark circles through the day. I’ll go mad! How long can a person go without sleep before the crazies sink in? Or worse – until the body just gives up and crawls into death’s cave hollering ‘I didn’t sign up for this shit!’ over it’s decaying shoulder?

In my opinion, not long enough. I have no choice. I have to find out what has happened to them. I have to fix this. I have to save them, to rescue my sleep, to free myself.

Tonight. It begins. Tonight I will venture outside my window. I will pass by beneath it and move off in the exact same direction I myself have witnessed countless times before. I’ll spend the day making preparations: gathering food scraps for the old man, a knife for the young woman, cash for the teenager, a mobile phone for the little girl, a bucket of grit for me…

And then all that will be left to do is wait.


Candle ~ The Daily Post ~ Daily Prompt

Getting Older by Sarah Kay

Whenever I hurt myself

My mother says it is the universe’s way of telling me to slow down.

She also tells me to put some coconut oil on it.

It doesn’t matter what ‘it’ is.

She often hides stones underneath my pillow when I come home for the weekend.

The stones are a formula for sweet dreams and clarity.

I dig them out from the sheets, 

She tells me what each one is for.

My throat hurts.

So she grinds black pepper into a spoonful of honey, makes me eat the entire thing.

My mother knows how to tie knots like a ship captain

But doesn’t know how I got that sailors mouth.

She falls asleep in front of the TV

Only until I turn it off.

Shouts, “I was watching that!”

The sourdough she bakes on Friday’s is older than I am.

She sneaks it back and forth across the country when she flies

By putting the starter in small containers next to a bag of carrots.

“They think it’s ranch dressing.” she giggles.

She makes tea by hand.

Nettles, slippery elm, tumeric, cinnamon.

My mother is a recipe for warm throats and belly laughs.

Once she fell off of a ladder when I was three.

She says all she worried about was my face as I watched her fall.

Listen to Sarah Kay’s poem “Getting Older” and a conversation about craft with Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz as featured on the podcast “Live from the Amy Clampitt House” for the Indiefeed Poetry Podcast here.

Mother by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz

When I told my mother

I wanted to be a veterinarian

when I grew up, she told me

that vets kill puppies and kittens

and stick needles into horses

and bunnies with cancer.

When I told my mother

I wanted to be a zoo-keeper

when I grew up, she told me

that animals in captivity

are still wild animals, and hence

could attack even the friendliest

of caretakers, usually tearing them

to shreds and eating their remains.

You see, my mum and I

had a lot of time to talk

about these things: I was the last

of the Aptowicz brood.

Always too young and too small

to go on the backpacking trips

and nature hikes that formed

my brother and sister: the scientists.

Mum never liked my career choices much,

but I knew I was on the right track

when one day, over a bowl of alphabet soup,

I asked her:

Hey Mum,

how come there are such things 

as bad words?

And she said:


there is no such things

as a “bad word.”

Only words that aren’t 

appropriate for all situations.

For instance,

you should never say

the word “shit”

in front of a nun.

You see, she gave me that:

she gave me the gift of words;

she gave me the power of words,

and I never considered it a privilege.

But my mum grew up in a time

when words were being redefined,

words like gender, power, class,

and revolution.

So though she was top of her class,

editor of the school literary magazine,

editor of the school newspaper,

the National Merit Scholar with

the three-newspaper-a-day habit,

she still had to hear them tell her:

The scholarship

is not going to be for English

If you want to go to college at all,

it’s going to have to be for science.

So my mother, the biologist,

met my father, the chemical engineer,

and together they produced three beautiful kids,

one of which my mum would make sure

wouldn’t feel the burn she was forced to feel.

People always ask me

why I make such a big deal

correcting them, saying:

No, it’s not

Cristin Aptowicz.

It’s Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz.

It’s just one word, they say,

it shouldn’t make that much difference.

But I know the differences words make.

It is a gift my mother gave me.

And I honour her

every time I put pen to paper,

every time I put word to lip,

and every time I sign my name,

My mother says she’d never trade

any of us kids in for a novel, or

a job at the New York Times,

though the way we behave sometimes,

she says she’d consider it.

But I know she’s only joking,

because I have never seen her

look so proud, or smile so bright,

as when I finally told her

what I wanted to do,

and she said:

You know what, honey?

I think

Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz

is the perfect name

for a writer.