James H. Duncan

hidden by the smell of flowers

4 a.m. and the water drips down
from the long ripples in the ceiling
things like unhealed scars
the water collecting in the bucket
reeks of vomit and rot, of ancient
pipes and molding sheetrock
it has soaked into the mattress
where we used to sleep and sometimes
try to talk about why it wasn’t
as good as it used to be
we didn’t know it at the time, but
the stench of rot and vomit
was in the air there as well
hidden by the smell of flowers in
the vase on the nightstand, and by the
night air vibrating through the window
with the sound of car doors closing
and of highways, crickets, prayers
at all hours of the night, our life
and now it is 4 a.m. again
it has always been 4 a.m. again
the air is still and the stink
is still here
while you are not
tap—tap goes the water
in the bucket as the streetlights
hum in dawns coming light
you were right, we were wrong
and the water keeps falling


James H. Duncan is the editor of Hobo Camp Review and the author of We Are All Terminal But This Exit Is Mine, a new collection of poetry from Unknown Press. His work has appeared in Writer's DigestDrunk MonkeysAmerican ArtistFive:2:One and other publications. For more about his books and reviews, visit www.jameshduncan.com.