Nightmare Poems – Stephanie Yue Duhem
September 15, 2020
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
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.