I dreamt of you last night.
Not you by name or you by face,
but you as the fever under my skin knows you:
The great red mouth opens wide,
the tongue works at the loosened tooth,
the tongue writhes in the brine barrel,
the tongue nails itself to the deck boards,
the cats pace hungry on the porch
for a mouth of meat.
The great red mouth
yawns down a quart of honey,
yawns down a quart of molten salt
what are you trying to cure?
what are you trying to preserve?
you end yourself trying but try —
I’m done trying.
In this dream of you,
I am the tooth; I rock in the gum,
with the copper not-blood taste of error,
with the bent angle bite,
with the wrong cradle, the wrong dock
for the incisor me.
Let me leap loose
from your great red mouth;
clench your jaw and I swear to god
I’ll crack and splinter; I’ll shear myself off
even if I leave my goddamn root behind.
Great red mouth
spit me out, wrench me out,
let me berth off in a bite of red apple
or I swear to god
I’ll abscess myself. I’ll eat you alive.
Because I snore at night
chewing on a tongue of terror,
my doctor prescribed a sleep study.
Tonight, at the hospital,
a nurse binds me to a clinic bed
with sensors and wires and straps,
an electric kind of bondage —
I am tubed and surveilled,
expected to sleep soundly
in this antiseptic ghost of a bedroom,
where someone always listens
and someone always watches.
Two a.m., half-addled, I teeter
on consciousness, stumble-drunk,
one foot in the world and one in slumber.
Stare at the glass eye over my head
and wonder what all this paraphernalia
tells my nurse about me. What
can she read on her charts and monitors?
Can she see the yellow eyes
that have stalked through
my sleep since I was a child?
Can she see the name tags
fettered to my wet dreams?
When I wake, I’ll ask her
if she can draw me a map
through the architecture of sleep
to the fountain where
my poetry spills forth,
to the spring in the rock
and the steaming basin of words
where I drown every night;
every morning, I surface and gasp
for air, wring what drops of poetry
I can out of my beard and onto the page,
and, spent, forget my way back
until sleep seduces me again.
Here is a lesson in violence:
what brutal delight is better indulged
With the opening of your eyes
you rip yourself from the sticky wall
of Morpheus’ oneiric womb,
sever the tendrils of worlds
not yet opened to you
and now never to be so.
You are left with a splatter
of dreamblood upon your lip,
The faint copper taste of memories
that flee for their lives
from you, cruel waker.
Sated, you pretend gentility
through the journey of an arcing
Gloom beckons the beast from you;
in darkness and sleep,
you prey on dreams again.