My Own

Sleep’s itineraries take me down circuitous hallways, through open doors to try to find directions. Always maps or indications: figures pointing, lampposts, voices telling me, “The hotel is closed right now” or, “That resto? It was demolished decades ago” – But she told me to meet me there yesterday! I turn a corner and nevertheless find our lieu of rendezvous – rounded neon sign, wrap-around windows, booths in red leather – sit down and wait. A waiter comes by, hands me a menu. The list is simple, of many years ago: coffee 10 cents, steak a dollar, black-eyed peas or mashed potatoes, 20 cents; baked beans with molasses, 25. The menu goes blank. The restaurant: still empty. Maybe she’s waiting outside. On the street again: no sign of her. The street is empty. I walk past stores, garages, vacant lots, warehouses, more warehouses, arrive at a gate —

DO NOT ENTER
OPEN PIT MINE

— go down spiral roads in earth, past hulking trucks with looming tires.  At the bottom, a burning house, flames leaping to the sky. Screams of help! ahhh!  I rush inside. The flames are flames in a film: they lick round me but do not touch. I find a body, drag it out, find another — three charred corpses on the ground, still breathing. Bend, give mouth to mouth: they fill out into smaller versions of myself, stand up, utter brief Thank yous, wave, scurry off — the children I never had that I call my own.

– first published in apparatus

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– next poem

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