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It’s three a.m., that empty hour
when the noisy last-call jetsam of the bars
has leaked away into the city’s substructure

or parceled off for fare in gliding hansoms,
leaving the rat’s hackled moment there
in the blacker shapes that shift around the square.

It’s three a.m., that empty hour
when gangs of theologians prowl the streets
looking for some stray angel to accost.

And the rails have ceased their humming,
and the watchmen end their rounds
nodding on stools in darkened corners.
The pigeons have found their minarets,
and the blocks of roll-downs rest
blank and heavy, locking all the shadows
along the way in their dream stations.

It’s three a.m., that empty hour
when the moon dips below a jagged roofline
like the coin an old thief drops into

the alms box in a vacant nave
before slipping, with a strangled prayer,
back into the night to do his work.


J.M. Jordan’s poems have appeared recently in the Chattahoochee Review, Carolina Quarterly, Northern Virginia Review, and Smartish Pace. He is a homicide detective in Washington, DC, and enjoys bourbon, Byzantine history, long walks on Civil War battlefields, and (occasionally) sleep.

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