A river thrashing with white rapids near a fall.

I rang the bells,
then I rained and rained.
Sleep watched me
from the unsafe side of a river.
His eyes looked blank, like the last days of a war.
I called him “Yes, Sir!”
He had the rain in his sights.
When I lay down,
“Yes, Sir!” pulled me through a sleeve.
I loved it inside of amnesia.
The bells followed me.
The sound they made wasn’t beautiful.
One night the river was breathing so hard
it felt like my cells had burst out of their syrup.
I smeared myself all over with mud.
My insides were floppy and soft.
They had flaps.
At first, I didn’t know
who was talking to me like that.
Talking to me in my insides.
Of course I remembered
when I heard the bells.
It was sleep,
splashing in the blood of the sunset and sunrise.
He was splashing his hands in that pulse.
I listened to sleep mouth-breathe.
My tongue stayed tense against my teeth.
Blood vessels throbbed behind my eyes.
I took sleep’s swollen teat,
rubbed it between my legs,
then put it in my mouth.
I laid an egg
and sleep said, “Do it again.”
Under me a dozen infants
wriggled inside their eggs.
Their little fingers groped.
All my strength
went into warming the eggs with my flesh.
It was an uncertain time.
I worried I might eat the infants
before they ate me.
Each hatching was “miraculous.”
I handled the infants anxiously at my bosom,
but the infants grew up quickly.
They blossomed into beards.
The beards would not be numb.
The beards grew teeth.
The beards would not be babied.
The beards would not be bossed.
The beards had bloody streaks in them.
The beards scratched.
The beards stank.
The beards caroused like bells.
The beards filled mouths.
The beards poked into brains.
The beards grew over bodies.
The bearded bodies floated down the river in the rain.
I forgot
every time my heart
took a beat.
I didn’t feel any holes
and I didn’t need to.
When I crawled out of the sleeve
I saw my skeleton
lying by the riverbank,
just where I’d left it.
It was breathing peacefully.

Photo by Stein Arne Jensen, used and adapted under CC.