Nightman at the Conservatory

by John Raffetto

All have gone home.

Streetlights of Stockton Drive shadow
inside the Victorian crystal garden
as snow covers dried lawns and bare branches.

Flashlight shines on deep fragrance of Hyacinth
spring in February behind darken greenhouse door.
Steam pipes hammer and pound-

A startled cat
Claws over concrete
dashes from view
as a radio muffles sudden noise-
water falls in the pond from a white urn
surrounded by dense philodendron foliage.

Rooms change temperatures quickly
as cold slams into warm humidity.
A large iron circular wheel
sending a rush of stream into rusted metal pipes
warming up the Palm House dome.

Sometimes extra plants causally slip out
the back metal door,

The potting shed is lit from humming florescent bulbs
hanging by chain over concrete benches
where dry soil is neatly piled
as terracotta pots
are stacked to one side.

The light fades as greenhouse after greenhouse is checked
55 degrees
68 degrees
45 degrees
one pipe turned off under a side bench
another overhead pipe turned on filling with steam
and sharp hammering
metal on metal.

A door slams suddenly
reflections on glass
two flashlights appear
Am I alone?

All have gone home.
All will return in the morning.