(This one is for El Paso and Dayton. It was written a while ago.)
In the dream,
she is wearing a dress of starry organza,
stiffened by sweat,
she, like me, is old,
and after several hours,
tired of dancing.
I am conscious, suddenly,
that only bones hold our clothing up
and that mine ache like an old fence in the rain.
The room is a library, two stories, with a ladder on wheels,
lit in the middle by a heavy chandelier, which drops
two thousand lumens onto the floor just below it,
and is still too weak to reach the corners,
the lee side of the wrinkles in my trousers,
the inch between the bone at the back of my ear
and the hair at the base of my neck,
such that when I come near to her,
we create wrinkles in one another,
and a black lapse in the center of the room.
Mass is rarely consistent in dreams;
you think you know how a shoulder ought to feel,
and you are correct, until you look for more than knowing,
such that she feels, in turns, as real as I am,
and just like me,
and just like the shape my hand has taken,
finally, like the void I’m careful not to touch.
The profuse shadows wash around my feet and eyes,
the stars in her fabric are dusked by absences,
dark pools collect around her knees,
maim her ribs,
drip from her cheeks,
and begin to grow and seep,
as she vanishes into them.
I repeat the touch to search for her again,
I search for her again and I am in a forest,
fourteen and a boy scout underdressed for the cold,
**** in my hands and flashlight in my teeth,
one hand on the trunk of a pine that I can hardly see,
listening to the trickle I make against the bark,
and a fearful groaning in the deeper woods
she moves and the dress moves with her,
it rustles; I am exposed to the light and blinded.
Smelling of pine needles and **** and searching
for a clasp in the dark that will prove her
beyond the doubt that only I can see her
and the doubt she lives at all,
not merely me or as a shape my opposite,
I settle on a place in the fabric below where I remember a shoulder,
I find something flexible and sharp.
It gives with a squeeze.
The fabric drops,
the stars pile in pure layers,
her raiment is bright,
white seeds floating
over a blue chasm,
where the shadows have joined.
The body is monstrous; a calendar of injuries,
from swollen ankles and clawed feet chained together,
skin mottled to six colors by constant burns,
where ******* would be, flat, grown over
by a bark cadaverously pale,
the shoulders caved in,
as if by a yoke.
Her eyes are blue and solemn.
She looks at me as if I could heal her
if I would only touch her.
I press my hand to a knotted scar
and feel it pass through.