Parasomnia

I.

Overcast mornings in August
sleeping in only our underwear, backs
to the windows. No bodies in our beds
just my father’s tee shirt
stuck fast to my skin with sweat,
a hole in the collar. I see the feet
at opposite ends of the hallway,
mussed with the hypnagogia between.

The glass in the bathroom bears light
but darkens the two-dimensional
planes of my cheeks and mouth
with a blunted affectation. I woke
wet with my own piss, when the baby
started in on one of her colic fits.
“Shut the baby up,” I am saying.
Beads of urine trickle down
my pink, bony thighs.

The woman at the end of the hall
is a mother unknown, hair
blonde and straight. When she looks
over her shoulder, surprised to
see me, I feel faint and lean
my head against the wall.

She returns to her room, to
the sun’s lactation, the furniture
concealed in milk and shine. Out of frame
I hear her singing, see the movement
of an elbow, a curled hand, the flat
of a mirror, brushing the flames
from her hair. “Shut up. Shut up.
Shut the baby up.”

II.

The fevers of childhood
compound into a single flame,
snaking up the arms of the gas stove
on an indeterminate afternoon. The virus
hollows my stomach, but distends
my fingers and mouth, stuffs me
with cotton, like a poor child’s doll.

My tongue is heavy. It slips under
the baleful eyes of a ticking clock
and into the flame atop the stove.
The sun is sulfur, after the milk has all
dried up, the baby starved inside
its cradle, and now this salivating
muscle, vulcanized by the
yellow light and the heat beneath
the kettle.

My words stiffen into seers stones.
Even the milk-man wants a taste. I fold
my clumsy hands over my lips.
There are no futures in me. I am
saving myself for a past life.
Blood pools in my ears in tandem
with the kettle’s whistle.

III.

In every room there is the sound
of a television playing
in some other room. Quiet diatribes,
digitized evangelists selling sermons.
Somebody’s parents screaming, “I hate you, I hate you.”
Soft-core porn for the divine.

I ice my knuckles in the kitchen sink,
wrapped up in bloody paper towels.
The baby’s bones are kept in
a dusty cigar box in the basement. Her ghost
grew into a fine woman, after all,
blonde and soft. Nobody’s daughter,
everybody’s sister. Older than me
in a single year, but still we
call her Baby.

She has taken up witchcraft, sweats
red hexes over the dead field mice
she collects behind the barn,
practicing necromancy.

All conscious hours are waiting rooms.
We live in doctors’ offices and paralegal
buildings, auto body shops
rich with the foul of instant coffee
and daytime talk shows playing low,
with the noises of drill bits grinding
in the background. That is not
a life, not a dream.

Here, my Baby, the witch
flicks a cigarette into the withered
rose bush next to the back door
and informs me that it is time for
my mid-morning exorcism.

The kettle first. I drop an oxycontin
into my cup while she prepares
black bible verses
by the light of the bay window.
My tea goes cold, sitting unattended
on the counter. The clock strikes,
and she rubs a splash of bourbon
between my eyes, stuffs flowers
into my mouth in the cavity where my tongue
used to be. “The night is becoming
a mare, with a sable coat,
a lame leg. We must put him down.”

Like the hand that rocks
the cradle, the smoke ripples
through the open kitchen door.
The flames rise to lick the windowpane.
Roses that were dead breathe again
in the inferno. The bush is
burning.  “What do you see
in the smoke,” she asks me.
“Does it speak to you?”

I strain to hear through the background
radiation, the blood
gurgling in my ears, as if choking.
The bush speaks. It says,
“Shut the baby up.”

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Waiting for Checker

With her I am always just arriving. I say,
“This doesn’t look like the bus
stop,” because it’s not. We are waiting
for a car, a black sedan,
and a man named Checker. Earlier we went
to a theatre on W. 106th that had been
condemned in the early millennium. She was
drinking Thunderbird out of
a Starbucks coffee cup. No one

ever bothered to change
the marquis. It read: “E WARD ALB E’  TIN   LICE.”
Some of the letters had fallen off. Inside,
all the seats had been removed, the red curtain
in tatters. Her dress was sequined,
and she told me she had
stolen it with pride. “Don’t I look
just like a galaxy?” But she’s the type
that will ask a serious question
without ever caring
to wait for answers she thinks
she already knows. She climbed
on the stage and

turned. Didn’t stop turning, laughing
like the incredulous bereaved
in hospital waiting rooms or fluorescent bathroom
stalls, every aspect of her echoing through
the empty hall with its moth-eaten
satin and gold-lacquered cinder, until I felt
lonesome and sick in the stomach.
Focus on the cup, is what
I told myself. The plastic rim was painted in four
different shades of lipstick, each pastoral
and cheap. “I feel like a galaxy,” but she acts just
like a nebula, imploding. It’s cold

on Vine where we stand, heels dug
into the curb,  after she’s drunk
all of the wine. Checker was supposed to be here
26 minutes ago. Her cup is still in my hand, a fixed
perspective for my eyes to set, like suns.
Quietly singing a song she thinks is by
Elvis, but is actually by Johnny Cash. And really,
she’s only repeating the same line
over and over again. “But I shot a man in Reno,
just to watch him die.” Just to
watch him die. I only realize her hand
is on my cheek when I smell the tobacco
on her fingers, her tangerine perfume
reduced to an afterthought. It’s four in the morning

and I know that she’s going to leave
me. What can I do? I watch her
watching me, touching me like I’m delicate and small.
I wouldn’t have loved her if I thought
she was going to stay. “And it’s funny,”
she says, “your skin is so soft,
but you never smile.” She turns, and this time
she stops, her arms crossed
like she’s been embarrassed or

misunderstood. Slow lights blink
tiredly at the end of the street. “In the face
of someone older, genius appears
so reverent and kind,
doesn’t it?” Like a welcome madness

the black sedan pulls up
next to our curb. Checker is sitting
in the front seat, with a face nondescript,
obscured, he is wearing a blue coat.
As she gets into the back seat, she looks me in the eyes
and says, “But in someone young,” someone
like you, “it’s terrifying.” I wonder
how Checker knows when it’s time to go
if he never looks back.

Bloody in the Slipstream

Lost amidst the underbelly,
self-help books, empty
wine bottles, a box of
my grandmother’s dusty old
45s (Elton’s first single
and the soundtrack
to every late 60s Presley film),
I scramble through the refuse
for the blue and silver
lighter I stole from
the glove compartment
of my brother’s car.

14, with those Kierkegaardean
sentiments sticking to
my ribs like pork grease,
the reek of a Big Mac clinging
to the yellow sheaf
on the desk, philosophy just
making me sick, sloughing
muscle from bone in
a thick strawberry,
sour-sweet paste.

Anathema, it was Christmas Eve
and it meant something then,
the aromatic heat climbing
up my orange walls,
hacking in the doorjamb like
cotton-wool, or the memory
of my seventh holiday,
not long after the divorce,
when the living room shone
fluorescent and chilly
with her absence, a fat
evergreen unadorned, the corners
all wrong, a scant few boxes
and sleepaway bags
to compartmentalize
the sputtering loneliness
of childhood abandon.

The first time I was ill-
equipped, nostalgic for things
that had transpired
decades before my birth,
laid out flat on the stained
malodorous bedroom carpet,
reading Rimbaud and
romanticizing what perfumes
a rotten flower might press
between my saliva and bone,
balanced steadfastly on
the precipice of some
luminescent doom, whose hollows
might echo with the ticker-tape
of kindergarten laughter.

I drew a cartoon handgun
and scribbled the lyrics
to a Radiohead song on a sheet
of looseleaf in red sharpie,
garnished my modern art masterpiece
with a globule of phlegm
and the remainder of a sandwich bag
filled with $15 weed, rolling
the fattest, most infantilizing joint
I could muster with
my chubby kid fingers.

It was all so degrading:
I wanted to be a poet’s-poet,
wearing houndstooth and polyester,
building sandcastles in piles
of plain gravel and cigarette ash,
like the entire world was
my dreamscape jungle-gym,
distorted and supine through
the eye of a prism;
but it was never quite divined.

I lived suburban, liquor
made me retch, and though I
was once-upon-a-time touched
I was never outright fucked,
and the only thing I really
had going for me were the scripts
the family doctor would hand out so freely,
which made me feel flat
and wish that I would die.

I smoked myself sick in the alleyway
behind the shed, dead winter,
breath white and ice black,
patches of stubborn snow
clinging to the collapsing garage
across the way.

I remembered as a kid
playing the same game everyday
for hours, where I’d toss rocks
into the holes in the roof,
simply entranced, lobbing
small planetesimals into the air
and waiting for the momentarily
satisfying click-clack of a rock
falling onto the concrete below,
or otherwise rolling off the slate
to fall back into
my upturned palms.

I never knew I’d turn so rotten,
quarter till midnight,
crouching furtively in the dirt,
the wind blowing out
my cherry time and again.

When my brother came home
he sat with me, that Christmas Eve,
like he sat with me in the attic
after Mom left, under the window
where we watched
the silent pulse of stars
intersect with sagging, shoe-string
powerlines, and I swore I could see
the far-off telephone voices
travelling light-quick on the backs
of buzzing electrical currents
when he put his bony arm
around my shoulders,
and read me bedtime stories
while the tears trailed down his cheeks.

We don’t talk about that now
any more than we talk about
how he used to hit me,
rage-blind with a fist aimed
for my mother.

My breath came out quick in tiny
panting smoke signals, S.O.S.
I guess, all for the best
when he offhandedly told me,
“You can’t roll for shit,”
his body shaking under the paltry cover
of a thin sweater, body skeletal-skinny,
with an older man’s disease
roiling through his squishy
pink insides, though he was still
a boy, the hair on his upper lip
a fractal patchwork.

He hit deep anyway,
and I shrugged, as he shoved it back
in my face with lazy resentment,
and skipped a stone across
the alley, muttering,
“You shouldn’t smoke,”
and tsk-tsking as if it was something
I hadn’t learned from him.

He’s so angry these days,
and not in the explosive, showy
little boy kind of way, though
he hasn’t hit me in a long time,
he slapped me good
on my mouth a few weeks ago
when I threw a steak knife at the wall
after he told me I wasn’t loved.

He’s angry in a conservative way,
like he’s got a list of names
and no qualms brutally checking them off
one-by-one if he thinks he can
get away with it, or he’d willingly
go to prison for putting down
any guy who put his hands
on me in an ugly way.

So I told him,
“You’re a saint,” what a drag,
and he ground his teeth,
pulling his mouth into
a tight frown with our mother’s lips
while his thumb and forefinger
stiffened in the shape
of our uncle’s Beretta,
and replied, “I want
to be a martyr,” bang bang.

I’ve been trying half my life
to draw the blood
from the stone in his eyes,
as they skip, and he smiles
with his teeth glowing
like mercury in the moonlight,
my hands balled into fists
too tight to break.

“Let’s not talk,” I said,
like it’s all for the best,
my voice falling on the back
of a hot current that glides bloody
into the starlit slipstream.

I Had to Stop Writing Poems About You

The flowery speech and heavy-handed metaphors
started to seem more pedantic than appropriate.

Lately, whenever I have a dream about you
we’re either fucking under a tarp
in the neighbor’s backyard with our shirts still on,
or getting into fist fights about
whether it will be pizza or Chinese.

The discourse gets brutal after a while, but I think it’s nicer
that way no one gets too spoiled.
Romance really isn’t even the point of it all.

I’m not going to hold your hand whenever
we’re somewhere other people can see us,
as if I have to broadcast that we’re still together.

If I had it my way, we’d keep it between the two of us
like a body we’d buried beneath the overpass,
the kind of thing that can really haunt a person.

I don’t need to follow you into the bathroom
or get off the couch every time you come home either.
And, no, I won’t do anything for you.

I won’t clip your toenails or take up jogging,
and I sure as shit will not start drinking milk.

But if anybody is trying to hurt you
I will hurt them first, no questions asked,
and I will even stop at the grocery store on the way home
to pick you up those cookies that you like.

Give and take, but give first,
because after all these years, I still think
you deserve it more than I do.

‘Cause when I’m alone in a parking lot at night
with some strange guy on my heels,
or I forget when to keep my trap shut
and really feel like I might be fired—

when the panic starts to kick in, I know
I’m going to smell you around me like a heart attack,
my hands all numb with the want
to be inside of your hands,
and I won’t feel safe until they are.

The Overwhelmed Woman On the 11PM Bus to Bethlehem

I was on the last bus outbound
from New York City on a Saturday night
with my notebook in my lap, struggling to pin a name
to the nervous feeling that had set up shop
deep inside of my gut.

There was a middle-aged woman sitting
across the aisle from me, one row up,

carrying a purse the size of a suitcase,
and wearing a thick red coat (which wouldn’t
have seemed quite out of the ordinary
if it wasn’t the month of July).

When she turned on the overhead light
I could see her hair was a mess, bobby pins affixed

at odd angles, gray-streaked wisps escaping
her lazy bun like live wires spilling
out of a broken electrical socket.

Her hands were shaking as she began searching
through her bag in a nest of crumpled receipts,

empty lipstick tubes, and used tissues,
to reverently exhume a half empty
prescription bottle.

Balancing both bag and refuse was an accident
waiting to happen, like trying to swim

the Atlantic one-armed, her portentous fingers
clumsy on the cap, I knew where it was going
but it seemed unfair not to let her try.

It was a slow moment when it hit the ground,
something in her getting tired and immediately going to bed,

when she bowed her head and stifled a whimper.

The light was such a shallow thing,
dimly catching the tears streaking her rouged cheeks,

but making her thin mouth into a shadow
and finding that orange bottle like an ember,
rolling mockingly towards the front row,
pills rattling in a way that was never meant to be a solution,
just a little something to take the edge off.

Though I couldn’t quite breathe, transfixed
I looked at this farcical scene and thought,

There! That’s it: not the woman,
but the way the light that belonged to her
was a light that fought to evade her.

The Girls in the Glass

We can fall asleep mouth-to-mouth.
Candied breath plumes
sighing from our pouted lips
like native smoke signals.

The color is blue-green, I say.
It’s in my eyes, but we know
it’s the same shade it has always been.
Just a touch of perfume
and your mother’s nicotine.

I wish we knew
how to ask for help.

Your hip bones jut like craggy jetties
into the black Pacific,
bend over the backs of newborn birds,
dark pooling in the downy juncture
where my fingers splay out
trembling in the tangles
of  a shadow’s arabesque, spools
of white cotton that will tie our virginity
tight with pretty bows.

Smile to tell me
you are not afraid of me.
I won’t move the hair out of your eyes.

Your fat lip splits open
when you show your teeth
to reveal new blood.
Please don’t make me laugh, you say,
the overripe tang of chocolate
writhing on your tongue.

I let off the oxygen like steam
heat, convecting in upper air,
your parents’ attic,
where the nervous heat
of your hands and eyes
dispels the mythology of a gender,
the red tether of childhood expectation.

We are too old for dolls.
In the dark, I can’t see
the daintiness of it all,
but I know that you love me.

We think we are such big girls
don’t we? Proud and independent,
standing naked in the bathroom
under a flickering white light
holding our pert breasts
in the mirror, or curling
new pubic hairs around our fingers
like purity rings.

Cream and plastic.
Always on the other side of the glass
saying, Make me beautiful, mama.

Mama, make me pretty,
over and over again
until our chests and thighs
flower with cherry blossom bruises
that bud in the shape
of our own hands.

Inside of me there is a forest fire.
I smile because
I am afraid of you.

It hurts now I suppose, but wait
just wait, until we fall asleep
pressed together like a couple
of fugitives on the rug
beneath the sink, a bottle of bleach
safe and warm between us
in the womb our arms
and stomachs make.
Just a little something to wash
the sour taste of our young sex
out of our mouths.

All better then.
We will smile because
we will be free.

Garden Fever

Last night I had a dream
of self-fulfilling prophecy.
It started, the way most dreams do
with a high speed car chase,
the mellifluous ping-ping
of rubber bullets hailing down
on the roof, a plastic steering wheel
and a horn that plays
cradlesongs when honked.

And, of course, me, mired
in the throes of disaster, worrying
about the ever-increasing
rates of insurance.

I crash into the governor’s backyard
shaking my bony fist
and demand a recall.

But politicians don’t listen,
not even in dreams, and my mind
gets tired and the landscape shifts
into something more familiar.

My hands swell like hot air balloons.
This is the transmutation.

On guard, sweet savant
paints avant-garde
in a secret garden,
at the back of my skull
where moss gathers thick
like a cloud of penicillin.

My mother’s tulips
droop like lonesome streetlamps
under the red window. Look
inside there is Chekhov
swimming in a pool of violent
yellow light, the motes of
a past skin suspended in its thrall.

The dust rain falls
from a ceiling that glows
like a splash of gasoline
on hot black asphalt. He wears
the particles of who I used to be.

Then there is his hand
on a carving knife
as the blade sinks into a ripe melon.
The girl in the bed stirs, the bones
of her face shifting under her skin
like a city turnstile. Little pet,
where have your eyes vanished?

Love is a desperate
equilibrium. The push and pull
of canned heat and gravity,
somehow is too much
when it is not enough.

Chekhov places a slice
of melon on his tongue
where it sits and decays under
the pontificating speech of needing
one another. His eyes are on
the paneled walls, the lampshade,
the watermarked ceiling.
She hears the hum of the refrigerator
so acutely, her ears begin to bleed.

I must be dying. How many times
do I have to say it before
the semantics satiate my inability
to get out of bed in the morning?

Outside of the garden
there is a birdbath made of silver,
with a sparrow perched on the ledge,
one eyed, shiny as
a tiny obsidian marble.
And on the water
a miniature rowboat.

My grandmother’s hands
man the oars, but not as they were
five years ago
in Madame Tussaud’s mortuary
clasping the cracked rosary
over her tar-blackened lungs.

Her face is fresh, hair fanning out
around her head like
a flaming halo. Hell hides
under the surface of the water,
and waits for me to walk by.

She laughs mutely,
teeth hazy like aged celluloid.
I watch her go sailing
into the Virginian afternoon
through a broken projector.

Does she know that
she is dead? Does she know
that I am dying?

Heat suffuses my skin.
This isn’t sunshine. This
is fever. The air is just a damp sheet
twisted about my distended body
like a filthy white pinafore.
The sweat pirouettes off my brow
like a tiny ballet dancer.

Need is a great, gaping
ontological wetness.
The window frame rots off
the soft edges of the dream.

Her eyes peer back at me
like two tiny, Sartrean
hand mirrors. I’m in the water,
sweet Narcissus, in such hell.
I’m in the water and she
is rowing over me happily.

She gives me her
little hands. We’re in a tunnel,
but the light was a lie.
“You’ll be born,” she says.
“Come out of the water
and you’ll be born.”

Come out of the water, little girl,
and let the fever break.

Outer Space

I.

The doctor once tried to explain to me,
in very basic terms, the concept
of derealization; or why I sometimes feel
like a character in a novel, or a doll
with a string hanging off my back
when I get anxious. And I thought,

I know what this is: the way my voice
seemed to fill the entire room
over and under her, like the water
inside of a swimming pool; the way
my interior monologue dictated
the movement of her hands in her lap;
the way Chopin seemed to fall
from the ceiling like snow.

II.

My back is always turned on somebody.
Orchestras swell inside of the blind spots,
where tiny spectators hover, clink
tiny champagne flutes, and make
tiny, silent commentary.

My pupils dilate and a flaming car
crashes through the window
adjacent to where I am sitting.
Gasp, the audience’s mouths form
breathless Os. The doctor carries on
as if nothing has happened. Her eyes
expand and change color. End scene

III.

Yeah, I know just what this is. 
The music was suddenly very loud
and my heart was pumping awkwardly
in my chest as if venting helium. Defenses
compromised. The klaxons went off.
DANGER, DANGER, in flashing red letters.
The doctor called my name, asked me
if I understood. My name again.
I know what this is.

IV.

When I woke up that morning, my face
was on the pillow beside me, wrinkling its nose
as if some rotten smell had rooted deep
inside. The light couldn’t fit through the window
and I had to sit there, my hands tangled
in the blue sheets, arching, aching,
bending the edges to make them fit. I said,
I care nothing for the people around me.
They are awful, just awful.
But when I looked
into the mirror, mine were the eyes
I could not meet. DANGER, DANGER.

The bathroom door had swollen in its frame
from the August heat. I couldn’t get out.
I sat down on the floor, and watched the blood
inside the toilet bowl shift, until it appeared
as some sort of impressionist painting.
The ammonia made me fall fast asleep.

V.

When I was a child, I was touched by God.
He didn’t look quite as I’d expected. Bleached hair,
crooked nose, holy moles dotting his pale skin.
God was such an angry little boy. He knocked me down
on the basement stairs, and pulled at my top.
I can still hear that faint click, the sliding pin
that locked me in. Since then, I’ve had
a difficult time feeling wanted.

VI.

I tell myself it was a dream, but it all felt
so out of my control. I climbed out the bathroom
window and landed softly on my knees, fisting
the wet grass between my knuckles, holding on
to something sturdier than myself. Like a warm,
pink tongue trying to tell me that I am loved
in a concentric motion. That was supplication.

The sun was shining, and the rain fell
very gently. I could feel it, smell it all around me
but I couldn’t see it at all. The angels were kissing me
awake. I was inside the rain, disassembling myself
with an invisible hand like a radio, or
a model spaceship. I said,
You are a good child. You can be helped.

I knew what it was.

VII.

The doctor called my name, asked me
if I’d heard anything she had just said.
I shook my head. I heard the things
that I needed to hear.

The Man Under the Ice

No one told me
that my head would break
even when my heart was happy.

I can’t say what I was
expecting. That my skull
would crack, maybe, and the dark
gray ichor inside, all heavy
with the stink of
August’s carapace, rotting in
the autumn, would lay waste

to my heart as if
it were a truck-stop bathroom.
And perhaps in some crass,
desperately profane manner,
I wanted to feel the heat
of the piss as it dripped down my ribs
like rain off the branches
of a bare tree, burning all of the good
left inside of me.

But my heart is happy
and my head is still
breaking. I thought
it would crack like an egg
and all my unborn babies
would spill out from the bottom
in a thick, yellow goo. But that’s not
at all how it’s going. Instead
it cracks like a sheet

of ice over a frozen lake, with a tiny man
beating his fist against the surface
from beneath. And he’s screaming,
“Help! Help! Help!” He’s yelling all the usual
drowning platitudes with the water filling
his lungs feeling like a hot knife
or an enormous paper-weight;

but all I’m hearing
from up above is a slick
muffled thump, and a warbling sound
like the wind chimes just before
a thunderstorm, or a symphony
from a distance.

I get distracted
because his drowning plea
sounds like a song my mother sang to me
when I was a baby, a song I’d really thought
I’d lost forever, until I’m hearing it
in a dream, something that is
half-memory and half-fiction
and entirely,
a drowning person inside of my head.

I shouldn’t admit it,
but I’m really afraid of when
the man climbs out of the lake
(which I think he will).

I know he’ll be mad at me,
and really, he should be. Because
he was drowning and it was the worst
moment of his entire life,
and in an odd sort of way, I was distracted
by how beautiful dying is,
when you view it only as an abstraction
or a concept, instead of the terrible
thing that it is.

He’ll try to be violent with me
when his feet hit the bank,
but the cold will overwhelm him before
he gets the chance. At which point
he’ll collapse to the ground
and seizure through the freeze
until death trembles up the shore
to claim him, and extinguishes his flame
with a hot, gentle piss.

I will have to watch him die.
What else can you do? His lips
will turn blue, while a sweet
song dilates his pupils. I can remember
the verse, but the chorus is only just
on the tip of my tongue.

“How did that one go again?”
I’ll ask. But the answer won’t click
until I see the last breath
flee his lungs.

That song is the sound of a heart
that is breaking, inside of a head
that is finally feeling
whole.

Yes. Really? That’s Terrific! What a Louse. Go On. Etc. Etc.

At lunch, Bill tells me a story
about his middle-aged son.
He lives in Arizona. He is building a pool.

Bill does not believe this is
an interesting story. He tells me,
I feel disinterested in this story.

So he orders the grilled chicken
with a whole-wheat bun, and thinks
himself quite healthy for a change.

I nod in all the right places, but
little else. I say, Yes. Really? That’s
terrific! What a louse. Go on.
Etc. etc.

But I realize it is one of those days
when I drink antacids for breakfast,
and I turn my wristwatch over out of habit.

And every time I touch myself
it feels like someone else’s prints
are all over me, just trying
to get my attention.

Bill decides he ought to be
more exciting, like me. He says,
I should be more exciting. Like you.

So he tells me another story
about his German nanny, and how she liked
to hit the little Jewish boys.
And the way his mouth moves around
the word “Jewish,” I can tell she beat
the ugly into him before he was ever taught
what it meant to be beautiful.

The light that shines through
the cafe window, makes him look
a lot older than he actually is.

Repeat after me this time: Yes. Really?
That’s terrific! What a louse. Go on.
Etc. etc.
Bill only talks to his son on Sundays,
and his caring is limited to the memory of
a god that was never a part of his faith.

Sometimes, when we are made to feel
like we are nothing, we find faith in filth
and it makes us feel like we are something.
But then, other times, we realize that faith
isn’t something that we need at all,
and it makes us feel like we are everything.

I turn my wristwatch over.
It catches the sun. Go on. And on.

Bill talks, and I try to listen,
but I am feeling distracted today.
He pulls out his wallet and shows me
a photograph of his father from WWII.

He doesn’t believe that there is
such a thing as winning a war.

Bill asks me if I need another glass
of water. I am not myself today.
When the sun shines through the cafe window
someone else’s hand is on my arm.
And on top of that hand sits my own.

I think to myself, What about all those people
that exist inside of my dreams?
What do they do all day, while I am awake?

But, of course, they sleep. And when
they sleep, they dream
of me in a cafe. And they say, Yes. Really?
That’s terrific! What a louse. Go on.
Etc. etc.

Bill asks me if I am all right, but
this is just their dream, so
he already knows.