When the world has gone to sleep,
And you my dear are alone in your bed
Bundled in cotton and smelling of soap,
When it’s all around dark and still
And the only sound you hear
Is the air warmed by your lips,
Perhaps a cricket or two,
Or maybe a lonely cicada
Still searching for a mate,
When your eyes, so heavy now
From the events of the day,
Drift slowly closed,
And you curl up your legs
To your chest, as if to draw
The sleep itself into your body,
Let your last, drifting thought
Be like the leaf outside your window
As it readies itself to fall finally down
And begin a new life.
But what if there is no answer? We cannot hope to find it if we don’t know what we’re seeking, and half of our world is blind anyway. An eye sees only what is behind it, what has already happened and cannot be undone. Only a question remains, and we are without the satisfaction of knowing where it is leading us.
The man in the coffee shop claims to know the answer. He says seeking the right question is useless. The answer has always been right in front of us. He says all roads lead to spring under the shade of a maple tree. That all clocks tell us not what time it is but what time it will be when we get to where we are going.
Oh Anneliese, tonight I am overcome with love for you. When the clock strikes nine, I hear the beat of your Bavarian heart, and my own heart travels through decades hoping to find you as you were. You say everything about us is vanity, and I know more than anyone your need to suffer, but the cruelty of this world is not without redemption. We starve ourselves of love like it were food in the midst of a prolonged fast, and we forget that nothing can ever take away our spirit unless we hand it over willingly. Do not atone for the misdeeds of youth. Do not lay down and die for the lack of a priest’s hand on your forehead. Eat. Drink. Allow yourself to be at rest knowing the world will continue, and you will continue, so long as July is always over the horizon, and I am waiting to come with you into the light of creation.
Anneliese Michel was the inspiration behind the movies Requiem and The Exorcism of Emily Rose. She died on July 1, 1976—the day I was born. Read about her here.
It is always the same. In the dream I open my chest, extract a heart two sizes too big. It is dark. I work by the light of a candle that sits in a shallow dish on the far side of the room. When I am done, I pack the empty cavity with lye, sawdust, and an old cocoon I found in my desk. After this, the wound is easy to close. A few passes with a shoelace, and any evidence of what just happened is barely noticeable. I place the heart on a scale to measure the amount of grief, if any, I have been able to remove. It reads two years, then flashes six months before going blank and refusing to give any more answers. Unsatisfied, I open a window hoping the night wind will carry away the smells of lavender, ink, and fresh paint that have lived for too long in my anima. Instead, a crow flies into the room, takes hold of the heart still on the scale, and disappears into the darkness. I wake with a start and clutch my chest—looking for new scars.
When the sun has gone,
passed finally over
you will never
even if you could,
and your world
is once again
immersed in something
resembling the dim hush
of a life in repose,
the day’s events
replay in your mind.
A word not spoken,
a misstep, an injury,
the touch of a woman,
the scent of a thought
gone but for some
like old furniture
in your head.
So you count each chair,
each shelf full
of either regret
You try to arrange
so they will appear
as a room decorated
for visitors and not
full of decayed things
tossed in without care,
waiting for a time
that will never come
when you are ready
to be discarded.
Sometimes there are too many doors.
They fill the room,
open and shut in random patterns,
switching places when no one is looking.
Some half-open in the morning,
shutting at night, then revealing a crack
just before dark fills the room.
Some are camoflauged as walls,
some as clocks, some as bottles
of gin on the carpet.
If I take my door,
and you take your door,
and we rub them against each other,
would it reveal those masked doors?
Do away with the others
cluttering this space?
Sometimes there are just too many doors.
And I am afraid I will never know
the correct pattern of opening and closing
that shows me the way home.
To the Picture of the Young Boy in the Plaid Shirt
At your age, the only thing you knew was how it would all end. Getting up from your bed in the middle of the night, running to your father, crying to him all you knew about the end of the world. If the dinosaur on your wall can die, why shouldn’t everything else? Fathers especially? Your mother said you were born in the caul, destined to be a prophet. And yes, what prophecies have you fulfilled. It’s as if your crooked half-smile knew all along what your life would become. As if the collar choking your neck were its own brand of prophecy. The look in your eyes suggesting the world will not die with a whimper, or bang, or by the intervention of some deity, but by your own hand clutched around the neck of existence itself. From the moment you left the womb, you knew that day would come.