The Faulty Porch Light by Marco Melfi - Winner of the 2021 Ralph Gustafson Poetry Contest
I flash on at dusk. I flash on for rabbits
and their shadows. I flash on as dogs piss
publicly beneath my bushes. I flash on
before canvassers knock for candidates.
I flash on for pizza delivered next door.
I flash on as the avenue’s deadbolts tuck in.
I can flicker like a taxi’s hazards or glare
like a semi’s high beams. If you translate
my strobes into dots and dashes I’m singing
gibberish. I flash on to examine the cracks
in my stairs like a tradesman studying
their dry hands under a lamp. Not trusting
I’m enough, my owner has tacked
a “No Trespassing” sign to the front window.
It’s faded and leans back to nap, leaving me
to scare off the egg-tossing teenagers.
But I want to be more than a warning,
long to be in sync with the street life. Maybe
even a beacon to the renter with the Vespa.
Or a welcome glow for the musician home
from tour, their van’s spare tire deckled
like a kick drum. When no honk signals
their car’s locked I flash on. But my message
is missed. It’s moments like this that I lose
track of my own darkness, wish for connection.
Before the inkling floodlights into wider
doubts — dawn ambers the horizon — I’m off.