walking the dog at midnight

There are nights
I walk the dog at midnight
through the dark quietness of the neighborhood.

And I look at the houses we pass—
most all dark—
everyone sleeping.
Though maybe everyone’s just gone.
That family’s gone to the beach, for example,
and that house is actually empty—
the previous owners having moved out,
new ones not having moved in yet.

Some houses have an upstairs bathroom light on.
Too much to drink with (or after) supper?
Or a child afraid of the dark?
Someone sick?

Some have (either upstairs or down),
emanating from one room,
flickering neon—usually in shades of blue—
someone watching TV.

Or there’s a light on in the small upstairs bedroom—
a tired parent up with a baby?
Someone at work in their study?

Sometimes, there’s just a lamp on in the main bedroom—
a late night tryst?
Parents having had to wait until children were all fast asleep?
Or someone unable to sleep—
reading in bed,
or fast asleep—
having fallen asleep reading.

Sometimes, the whole downstairs is lit up—
front hallway, dining room, living room, kitchen—
company too good to call it a night?
In others, it’s just the kitchen light on—
Post-party clean up?
Or simply forgotten and left on after clean-up?
Maybe there’s a lamp on in the living room—
someone up reading—
unable to put the book down?
Or a lamp on a timer?

All conjecture, of course,
based on assumptions of similarity
as I map my neighborhood in kinship—
walking through the darkness
unobserved observing
in walking prayer.

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