By David Valentine

I choke down a hundred placebos,

Row by row they weekly go,

The sugar sweet pseudo-psychosis . . .

O Novacaine! plodding mindlessly along

The narrow straits of my nerves

Like the invading Messiah.

O the hundred reminders of death!

O the hundred strangers

And the beauty that lurks in their bodies,

Waiting to work its treachery!

A hundred incisions and intrusions;

A hundred plans and changes;

A hundred contortions and confusions;

My dream rearranges;

I stomp the world piecewise into boxes

So I can get to sleep at night.

In the spirit! Out the spirit!

Count aloud your worldly visit.

Would-have-been suicides,

Would-have-been lovers

Whisper by the hundreds

In cold winds through the rafters. . .

What are you that comes back to me always

In my moments of hesitation and numbness?

That whittles a hundred indecisions

Down to the fine point of an awl

Against my heart’s thick hide?

What are you that twists headlong into my ear

And wears these solemn clothes?