Nightmare Poems – Stephanie Yue Duhem

a witch named melancholia

a witch named ░ melancholia ░ rides into my room

on a broom ░ stick ░ docks her face

on my pillow ░ case ░ in the seam of moon

light here ░ her warts steam ░ like lentils

her sweat parades ░ down silver braids ░ berries on the vine now

in a voice like mine ░ she says little one ░ remember how

you were loved ░ before and after ░ when serpentine he

hissed you away ░ do you not miss ░ that arch

in the spine that ░ march to the end ░ of skin

shed like a sheet ░ in the heat ░ or like a vow

in the heart ░ of summer ░ slumber is scarce

the air can rend ░ with shouts about ░ rent or how

dad won’t learn ░ computer science ░ mom won’t earn

enough to retire ░ so we can’t none ░ of us retire

from putting out fires ░ from kissing the butt ░ of the gun

of capitalism ░ don’t speak ░ too poorly

you weren’t there ░ for mao zedong ░ a gummy cut

thrice to spice ░ three tongues ░ a bangle smelt

once to convince ░ the men ░ to let dad out

once again isn’t this ░ better didn’t we suffer ░ so you can sleep

sound the sound ░ of bangles around ░ your arm

well fed well read ░ no harm can ░ come still

your heart ░ pounds ░ a broken alarm

like lack ░ lack ░ lack

a black and ░ crack-toothed ░ laugh

lack pretty ░ lack skinny ░ lack money

lack kindness ░ lack wunderkindness ░ lack friends

lack a name ░ that makes sense ░ an address

that says home ░ or yes ░ or even

a man ░ who comes ░ and does not

go away ░ away away ░ vape the witch

into vapor ░ benadryl her ░ into stillness

melatonin ░ the crone ░ ruthlessly

make ░ no place ░ for melancholy

pull back ░ this story ░ pull back

her plaits ░ pull until ░ the gloam

falls back ░ until you blink ░ and crane

your neck ░ until your fingers ░ slack from

the chain ░ of the lamp ░ and only

a scent ░ of lentils ░ lingers on

The Mara

A “mare” is a malicious entity that sits on sleepers’ chests, bringing on "nightmares."


When I was a child, I wondered if they’d go:

the dreams and the roar

tracing the skeletons of dreams.

Veins streaming through the faces of leaves—

grow, grow, grow.

Now I know.


When the child is a child and the body is new,

they take it over.

They move the arms as if the arms were wings and

the creature were a bird and not a child.

Personally, I am neither though my arms still itch to hover,

but I keep them down.


The mirror is as clear as a glass jar full of tar;

I am horrified at the transformation.

Have you seen the paintings of Remedios Varo?

How do their subjects stay so calm,

when their mouths peak into beaks,

and their limbs smudge into smoke?



how am I to tell a bird from a beast? Or know

which face to wear: waxy or matte,

broken or beaked?

Take my palm and hold it like a token,

how dreams hold children—without release

through words, only

the patient hum of leaves

in the dark.