Derek Mong

derek mongDerek Mong is the author of Other Romes (Saturnalia Books, 2011); the poetry editor at Mantis: A Journal of Poetry, Criticism, & Translation; and a doctoral candidate at Stanford where he’s finishing a dissertation on Whitman and Dickinson. A former Axton Poetry Fellow at the University of Louisville and Halls Poetry Fellow at the University of Wisconsin, he now lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and son. New poetry, criticism, and translations have appeared (or will soon appear) in the Kenyon Review, Poetry Northwest, Printer’s Devil Review, Laurel Review, Chariton Review, Lunch Ticket, American Literary Review, and Gettysburg Review. He can be reached at


An Ordinary Evening in San Francisco

Goodnight children my kid met at the playground.
Your pajamas wait like starfish on your small beds back home.
Goodnight street sweeper, hugging

every odd-numbered hillside. Goodnight
tomcats, marching from the Marina to the moon.
We are leaving, we are leaving, we’ll not be back soon.

Tonight the lit windows only lead
to better lives and other windows. They spread
out like the cell signals shooting through this night air.

Goodnight strobing cyclist, cyclops in the near-
darkness. Goodnight bald man counting out bus fare for his son.
We are leaving, we are leaving, we’ll not be back soon.

And now the dealers disappear
into their nondescript hoodies; and their dead friend
drinks the cognac they left him on the curb.

We carry this evening to a back booth
at Tosca; we drink Irish coffee and sketch out bus routes,
long as tablecloths, to anywhere we’d call home.

The bartender sees himself in the table he’s wiping
but still hasn’t noticed that we’ve stolen his miniature spoon.
We are leaving, we are leaving, we’ll not be back soon.

We leave and start walking. We say goodnight
to the smartphones swimming upstream like salmon.
Goodnight umbrellas, jostling for your six feet of dry air.

We crowd into a BART car that breathes underwater
and feel our eardrums dissolve. My son sees this crush
of bodies as a chance to try counting. We tell him

we are leaving, we are leaving, we’ll not be back soon.

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