Judson Simmons - "Cathedral of Dust," "The Night Waits for Nothing," and "Comfort Conditions."

Cathedral of Dust

For K.B.



I’ve been making excuses

for the reasons

I’m not sleeping.


Last night, I sat adrift

in a wash of moonlight

as it slipped through my blinds—

eyes turned bloodshot and weary. 


I keep inventory of the sounds I hear,

scribble them down in the dark,


taking notes of those noises created

after dusk has settled and dawn

is still hours away:


The neighbor’s dog

howling in false alarm,

the rumble of a diesel engine, and

alley cats shrieking as they fight.





By 3 a.m. I’ve exhausted

all the channels on the television:

the home shopping networks,

80’s sitcom reruns and soft-core porn.


The television hums:

“God Bless America.”

The television fills

with a snowstorm of static—

an insomniacs only companion





Once upon an hour,

in the moment between darkness

and a crow’s breathe,

the earth filled with chatter—

something like children

playing down a distant hallway.


Above the moon hangs

solemnly against a darkened backdrop,

while the stars litter the sky.


Clouds gather, clouds disperse—

we close our eyes

and ponder sleep

and a good nights’ rest.


Those nights I sit alone,

I sometimes wish I was like the moon—

voyeur in the night,

peering down on the world.





Hours until morning

and I been awake

for a while.  I’m tired,

yet my eyes can rest
no more.  It seems

that every night is an eternal loop,

an album left on repeat

playing to an empty room.


Stolen from my dreams

I sit inside this darkness

draped across my room.

Next to me, you are sleeping. 

Lost in a somewhere

far away from here;

you don’t notice as I slip

from beneath the covers

to my feet—the floor

is cold to the touch, the floorboards

creak with each step.


The night must understand

how I feel, the anxiety

of never being at rest—

something, car or creature,

always moving.  The earth

keeps moving.


Outside, the early fog

begins to settle on our lawn.

I know I’m not alone,

you are just a room away

and outside things still scurry—

but for some reason I can’t help

believing that tomorrow

is just a story,

smaller than a whisper.


I long to hold the sky

like the sky holds the darkness.





The beauty of sleep

is that moment when you first wake,

eyes ready to see

a new day fall gently

on your lap.


But it’s two a.m.

and tomorrow is still hours away,

sitting offshore

in some distant country.


I look towards your shadow,

nothing more than knot of shadows—

in the silence of the night

I wait to hold you.  In the silence

of the night

I’m blown away

like a cathedral of dust.




The Night Waits For Nothing




My brother whispers

beneath the glow

of our nightlight.

          “I hate the dark.”


I will never hear him

confess such fear again…




From the fire escape

hangs a metal pit—

ablaze in crackling flames.


Unattended, we watch

as the basket swings

by the whim of the evening’s sway.


Its coals burn, throwing

flecks of searing ash

towards Harlem below—


a meteor shower

kindled by the hand of man.




At night, I’ve grown used to watching

the lamp in my neighbor’s

living room.  Yet nothing moves.


And each night I fall asleep

staring at their empty apartment—

tracing lines of shadow creatures,

following the movements

that are never there…




That day the lights

turned out


across the east coast,

neighbors waited

outside their apartment buildings,

on front stoops:


little tribes surrounding

battery powered radios.


From the third floor

an old woman hangs


outside her window:

“Is it the terrorist,

     is it them?”




Even waking has become a burden.


I sit for hours, eyes

sealed, yet seeing everything.


I hear my brother

attempt to sneak in for the night—

a drunken stalk

fueled by ravenous breath.


Mother pretends to sleep

through this sad one act play;


I hear her waiting

‘til he’s passed out—


a sentry for his drunken ways.



Comfort Conditions


The parking lot is jammed

with Mexican workers; there,

without fail, each morning

at sunup.  As I pass them,

they’re set apart in groups—

probably split-up by location:

the cities and towns left behind.


They wait for a truck to pull up;

a white guy gives instructions

then they pour into the bed.

There is no arguing, just work. 

Labor, sweat, the sun

at high noon—and only a dirty shirt

wrapped around their heads

like an old, ragged bandana. 


On the highway, the traffic

staggers to a stop during rush hour:

slows then pauses, the a complete

halt.  Construction on I-10—

we call it an inconvenience

as we curse from inside the comfort

of our cars.  I would be lying


if I told you:

I understand their situation.

I have barely lifted a hand

beneath a rugged sun, hardly

earned my keep.  Still, there’re buildings 


to be built, yards to be cut

nice and neat, fences

to be erected, roofs to be fixed;

countless days beneath a sun

that never seems to end.


Judson Simmons is a graduate of the Sarah Lawrence College Writing Program and holds a BA in Writing from the University of Houston.  He currently resides in Houston and works at the University of Houston.  His work has appeared/forthcoming in Evergreen Review, Pebble Lake Review, Folio, Concho River Review—plus other journals.


Posted on December 7, 2013 .