Content warning: sexual assault, police interaction, violence
The Night My Rapist Dies in a Dream
In my dream, the detective is an old man from the bar I drink at in the early afternoon. The detective says, “It was only a matter of time before he blew his head off.” I drive by the house, and I see the shattered window, stained red around the jagged, the burst of brains on the sidewalk below. There is a boy, inside, his brother, his face a gift of shock.
I think in my dream, it is over. I did this. I will never listen to that album we both loved again even though I loved it first.
The brother begins to clean the blood up.
I think in my dream, he’s dead our mouths were pressed together I have held his body momentarily I don’t know what color his eyes are when the detective asks I say his beard is stupid I never traced his spine we mostly slept drunkenly in our clothes.
The blood is the color of the tulip that exploded from the ground this spring and fell under the late-season snows and sprang back up again without argument from anyone.
I move through a senseless night. In the distortionless day the victim advocate sat silently beside me. In the day I cried in the hallway before the detective appeared. In the day I said I don’t trust the system and the advocate touched her brown skin and said she didn’t either. In the day I said I fucked him for a year afterwards and watched the detective’s eyes dart away from me. In the day there are ten steps to reporting this kind of crime and I am so afraid.
Next to the blood on the sidewalk it is dawn. The brother has cleaned the room. He sits on the floor of the glistening world.
The Day My Father Speaks to My Sister’s Abusive Husband
In a picture, on her birthday, my sister’s face is blotched with tears and strikes when she blows out the candles. This is not that day.
On this day I am in their house and they begin to fight and my sister is on the floor and I picture his boot tracks down her body like in a cartoon I still watch cartoons and my father shows up to talk to him man to man.
I don’t know what my father can say, what her husband already knows.
They talk calmly like the cop who talks to my neighbor when I call them because my neighbor is about to beat his wife to death. Man to man.
I am thirteen. I am thirty-nine. I am five when my father knocks my mother down the stairs.
The Day I Read An Article About a Serial Rapist
She says he held her down she says there was little drinking involved she says she told her best friend it was rape the next day she says she agreed to keep it quiet and believed it was an accident and kept in touch with him. She was twelve the first time they met. He wrote ego-boosting notes on her middle school English papers.
My rapist teaches, too.
She holds onto these notes like I listen to the song that my rapist said reminded me of him over and over. She: that she can make it as a writer. Genius is always lonely. Me: T. Rex, glam rock, my projected image that I do not believe. Prince of players, pawn of none, born with steel reigns on the heart of the sun.
Our banes know our weaknesses.
The group of women who talked about it later broke their story to the New York Times because his coverage was relentless. My rapist is an adjunct who lives with his mother. It is still relentless.
My rapist contacts young women at four in the morning saying I can prove my innocence I have screenshots what a smear campaign.
There was never anything for any of us to gain.
Alex DiFrancesco is the author of Psychopomps, All City, and Transmutation.
The Night My Rapist Dies in a Dream was originally published in Monologging.
i ghost on every party before i get there a bundle of frayed nerves beneath my skin i’ve picked up worrying i worry all the time broken thoughts on a loop
i stay busy so my mind doesn’t have time to kill me
these days i identify as something in-between i identify as anxiety attack a high-functioning breakdown a cat on its last life something i can’t yet articulate but my chest is full of doom
the death of the party can barely leave the house can barely watch the news
i am sick like the world is sick i miss people who have forgotten me myself most of all
sometimes i’m afraid maybe i’m the ghost & everybody [knows / is afraid to tell me]
courtney marie is a writer & artist based in denton, texas. they are the author of don’t get your hopes up (2018, Thoughtcrime Press) and have a forthcoming full-length poetry collection to-be-released in 2021 with Goliad Media. cm enjoys making weird & sentimental art with/for their community, exploring the world, and playing pinball. they live with two three cats, cry all the time, and are forever writing letters & sending snail mail in a desperate attempt to connect with the outside world. cm is the co-founder & director of the artist collective spiderweb salon.
His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. (Mark 9:3)
It’s a recipe to bury a son’s face you’ve known for almost three decades:
First, he covers any reminder of how a mortal can hurt – every scar vanishes with the right shade –
& imagines your hand behind the brush as he beats blush onto the apples of his cheeks.
Then, he colors his eyelids with ash, lines them sharp & dark as the night that will take him in its bat wing.
He watches for the haunting of your gaze from the corner of the room before dabbing on phantom’s shimmer.
Next, he dyes his lips with a vampiric oath to suck the life & promise from a world outside bathed in neon.
Finally, he lets a dress hug him like a shroud & drapes it down, grazing the fang of a stiletto.
He peeks at the light escaping your bedroom, before disappearing out the door. She flies for the kingdom she was denied, but no longer tonight.
Jose Luis Pablo or “Nico” is a genderfluid poet and a communications manager for a non-profit. Their work has been published in Likhaan: The Journal of Contemporary Philippine Literature, Cordite Poetry Review (Australia), My Gay Eye (Germany), 聲韻詩刊 Voice & Verse Poetry Magazine (Hong Kong), Busilak: New LGBTQ+ poetry from the Philippines (University of the Philippines Press), Breakwater Review(USA), and elsewhere, as detailed in joseluisbpablo.wordpress.com. Nico was awarded by the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature in 2018 and was a finalist for the 2020 Peseroff Poetry Prize. They are based in Rizal, Philippines.
In another timeline, your tongue is murder weapon. Perhaps mine too. My body is crime scene was it the night who cordons us? & you carve chalk into silhouette. You always leave rust behind on the edges. Your moment is structured that way, like the shadow climbing out of my single exit wound.
In this timeline, you cut your hair & I do not notice. You cordon me with a smile. My chest wound serrate. I develop a taste for metal teething into wrist for skin scales mixing with rust for fringe growing into my eyes. You look the same to me always. Your image is structured that way.
In another timeline, I dislike your new haircut the freed forehead the same pair of shoes you always wear. In this timeline, we quarrel. You fuck me after we make up. In red- taped night, I caress tossed waves of your hair after sex how it looks like an oil spill smells like seaweed how your body stretches a horizonless blue against mine. A creature wriggles its way into my shipwreck chest. In this timeline, I feel full. My body is structured that way. Perhaps yours too.
In another timeline, we never meet. You cut your hair next to me in the salon. I look at a pair of scissors. Imagine your body sliced like sashimi you swimming inside me. In this timeline I cut a strip of Time coil it around you like fishing rod reel us in. Time snags taut like a muscle you would use to fuck me in another timeline & snaps. We sit in opposite corners of the room. Our fates are structured that way. Or not. Perhaps there is another time line where I cut your hair & you talk Time into strips & feed them to Me. & a tentacle to a machine that beats inside my chest out images, I can’t recognise loops around your silhouette. & I am your friend or not. We study together. I take your picture. What cordons a friend from a lover? A snapshot of how Timeis your hair is not structured that way.
every night / i peel my heels off / watch the pain melt / away into a tail / every night / i swab my face / feel the burn of / scales rippling across skin / my lipstick smudges / into a hue of / sailors’ warning / every night i shampoo my hair / the tub is a purple pool / kelp plasters the walls / every night my mirror / is a black pearl / humming stereo / of an eclipsed ocean / every day i swallow sand / every night i spit / out oily scabs / every day / i slide shells into sclerae / every day i am painfully / in human / every day my tongue ebbs & flows with bottled words / every night the tides wash / the wrecks of my name ashore
half fox / half faggot / the men never get my name right / all that glitters / is lip gloss / gold is false lashes / is orb of sequin skin / fairy tail is lace front wig / half flamboyant / half femme / is hands off no touching / is bulging panties / an untucked vixen / half fatale / the men always say i’m trying to trick them / but they find me at twilight / half feral / dance in alpenglow of amber eyes / fingers lost / in shifting fur / seeking dreams of sake / bosom to nestle their heads / to forget moon & meat / to taste cinder & tongue / they come to my shrine / half flesh & begging / to learn how to tame / the beasts
Andy Winter (they/them/theirs) is a gay, non-binary & neurodivergent poet from Singapore. Their works have been published in Cartridge Lit, Corvid Queen, and Freeze Ray Poetry, among others. They were a finalist for the Transpoetics Broadside Prize. They do not wish to be perceived. Find them chilling at whispersinwinter.wordpress.com.
on Alan Turing as we meet in quarantine again and again
what looks back at me from the mirror is the guardian of my memory. what we really are is just a river of what we will never forget.
morning presents herself and my reflection notices it first. I hover next to the machine of my body or maybe my body loiters next to Me. finds meaning in braiding together the ocean of my computer.
I crave meat and blood. I rush to the graveyard underneath my bed. the soil is warm and i am again organic.
what stays human in me if my soul stares from across the room inside the mirror next to me when I sleep?
I have buried here my most human cadavers. every father i’ve ever made myself every woman i have ever been the selves i have slaughtered in my making.
it is wormy and rich. more fertile than i will ever consent to. less chemical than i have become. i can lie in the wet mattress of my spirit.
if what stares from the mirror and lingers in the corner of my room shovels dirt over my body with its hands— i will stare back and be content with my ghosts.
Tori Ashley Matos is a poet and performer based in New York City. They’re non-binary, Afro-Taino, and queer. Their work is evolving, searching, muddy, and filled with ghosts, liberation, and freedom. They graduated from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and they’ve been published in Curlew Quarterly, Besting, Perhappened Mag, No, Dear Magazine, and more. They are a Gaze Journal Loving Gaze Poetry Prize winner, a Brooklyn Poets and Lit Fest Fellowship finalist, and a two time DreamYard poetry fellow. They have their first chapbook publishing in late 2021. Follow them on Instagram @ToriAshleyMatos!
Meghan McCain Stops Me in Kroger’s to Ask if I Work Here
I have an early memory of my father twisting my wrist and whispering hot into my ear to keep my hands out of my pockets in the store.
Don’t give them another reason to look at you.
I wish I knew what it was like for men to tell me what they wanted without fury.
My father probably didn’t mean to wrench
me, but fear is so much quicker than any of us know. Maybe it was better for him to shock me clean than a shaky white boy with a gun sweating against his palms.
Poem in Which the Author Apologizes
I’m giving away my bad blood. cleaning up my act. at last, this fruit-flied trash takes itself out. my delicate unbirth into palatability.
maybe the others are right—I’ve been too brutal, heady with revenge, should’ve taken his deadlight love
more gracefully and thanked him for the terror. I hope I can be forgiven now that I throne
elegantly, uplifting every desolate man too drunk on his name’s taste to do it himself.
please accept my flattening to dishwater. I’ve found beauty in his godhead imitation, learned to good sport.
a grateful massacre. sanctified into canvas for crafted masculinity, I break open my knees, wretch this jaw, sturdy
underneath him, in the kitchen, always waiting by the phone. aren’t you glad I finally decided to woman?
come and marvel at all this pearlboned pink I’ve unearthed. so worthy of his lonely cruel.
Simone Person is a Black queer femme and two-time Pink Door Writing Retreat fellow. They are the author of Dislocate, the prose winner of the 2017 Honeysuckle Press Chapbook Contest, and Smoke Girl, the poetry winner of the 2018 Diode Editions Chapbook Contest. Simone grew up in small Michigan towns and Toledo, Ohio. She can be found at simoneperson.com and on Instagram and Twitter at @princxporkchop.
“Cops, being neither human nor animal, do not dream. They don’t need to, they’ve got teargas. Don’t expect me to justify that. I mean, you know as well as I do that cops have got access to the content of all of our dreams.” — Sean Bonney, from Our Death
I had a dream where there was this TikTok sound that made the rounds where people were singing about all the different ACC College Football teams and naming them by their colors, blue and yellow, garnet gold, orange green, and even in the dream I couldn’t help but think of Rimbaud’s “Delirium” and his alchemy trapped in the geodes of vowels. But let me back up, because this is a dream I’m talking about.
I’m driving this woman home on the highway. We never know a stranger’s name in a dream, so I’ll call her Meredith. Don’t remember where we were coming from or why, or why she couldn’t drive her own damn car. I believe it was a school, she did give me a caring-but-severe teacher vibe, but that’s dreams for ya. I remember the light beginning to amber towards the end of the day. I remember the empty parking lot and a series of red brick buildings. I remember the steering wheel, the logo that shined so brightly in the sun that a rainbow draped itself over the wheel. As I drive her home, I’m trying to pull my credentials out of my ass, out the esophagus and into her chagrined ears. That’s right, I’m trying to convince her I’m qualified for a job. I’m not even sure what the job is exactly. Descriptions on forums and job boards never seem real. Probably some dreary paid internship pushing pencils into foreign soil and buying bad Italian-style coffee only to spill it on my shirt every Thursday. Meredith listed the places where she did her charity work: Czech Republic, Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Moldova again, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, and now Belarus again, she’s going back—and that’s just the post-Soviet states. Meredith heads the Slavic branch, after all. Branch of what? I dunno, it’s a dream. Probably doesn’t even exist.
All the while, Arthur Rimbaud is splayed across the backseat listening to music on cheap Skullcandys. He muses to himself as he tries to keep a tally of the different colors of the flags where Meredith used to visit. He hums a march to himself, and as he wags his finger like a baton, the fingertip changes color. Every time it turns green, it makes me dizzy. Thank god for rearview mirrors so I could keep an eye on the loon.
What is a colour revolution? “Nonviolent resistance” and a whole lot of zeros in bank accounts flitting in that big blue sky. But that’s just the scaffolding. It’s a color wrapped around the wrists of a demonstrator in a country where the proletariat used to win more than the odd Olympic game. It’s despots and authoritarians bombed for improving literacy and cost of living. A successful movement in brand only, faking it till the house falls down. Accusations of fraudulent elections and invitations for oversight opened and discarded at a UN office that has suddenly dissolved. Quite possibly the greatest grift the world has ever seen. Western powers find enough petit-bourgeois people, pass them off as working class to Americans, and help them fight against the democracy they never wanted in the first place. Outpour, but spelled wrong. “Marketing regime change.” There has never been a more American revolution—a western-backed puppet dressed in grassroots motley.
Morbidly curious yet hopelessly excited and nervous, I ask Meredith what I’d have to do during the job. I don’t even recall the vaguest detail, except that she says we get to show them an American alternative. The rainbow sprawled over the steering wheel winks asI shudder to think of what that could mean. I shouldn’t, but and what kind of alternative is that? She cocks her head inquisitively, as if this was a question she hadn’t been asked before, at least by another American. The democratic alternative, of course. These people rarely get enough to eat, aren’t allowed to read a lot of important books, and have nothing to look forward to in their home countries. Nothing: literacy in a language corralled by a lingua franca, heirloom potatoes, their scent, a smudged basketball hoop with no net.
I told her one of my tired facts about the Russian language, did you know that Russian has two distinct words for light blue and dark blue? I hear they translate literally to Democrats and Democratic Socialists. She asks me, so which one is lighter? And which one is on their flag? and at this point I’m ready to fling myself out of the moving Jeep and back into consciousness, not like it matters. The blue in the rainbow that sits on the steering wheel nudges the other colors away. The dark shade seems to settle at the bottom of the wheel like unshaken oat milk, bruised. The lighter hue of the hombre looks jaundiced in comparison. I think this is around the moment when the sun began to retreat from the sky to make way for a midnight preparing for some kind of event horizon. Too early for the time of day, yet many moons overdue. I flip the brights on.
She told me how she loved to teach the kids to smile. They’re all so melancholy at first, she crows, and terribly skinny, as if our overconsumption and obesity is better, or the local food scarcity is to be blamed on the “authoritarians”. I can’t imagine the horror of being a Soviet mother and having your child come home one day having learned to bare their teeth at strangers, afraid that they’re trying to instigate a fight. American smiles don’t translate well, or maybe, in a sick sense, this mismeaning is the goal. Pretty sure it was Thomas Sankara who said “He who feeds you controls you.”
Right on cue, we pass a tractor tilling the soil beside the highway, a work team building an irrigation dam. And who is on the tractor but none other than Sankara himself, whistling and smiling as a crane lifts the final support into place and the workers fetch the ribbon and scissors… “While revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, you cannot kill ideas.”
They won’t last long, Meredith says. She looks up at me from her phone, her flawless white screen. Regime change is scheduled within a week. She looks straight out the windshield. Strange how her face shows no emotion, yet I can tell she feels and she doesn’t hide it.
I still picture the flag of Burkina Faso after we’ve driven past that stretch of road where the people worked from their tractors—revolutionary red over the green earth tethered by a small yellow star that is the guiding light of the revolution. The doer tethered to their environment by the deed. Reminds me of the flag they used to have for the temporary South Vietnamese government. The northern red commits the southern blue to revolution. It’s large star betrays a daunting task of its own. In Algeria, people pass a starved moon between them behind clandestine columns. The sky is stolen away from what they call the sky. Piece by piece. Shh.
The headlights illuminate something big in the middle of the road: men with machine guns on either side of an unassuming door. There are shadows where their faces should be in the dim lacklight, but I see their eyes waiting for a signal. I take my foot off the gas, but the Jeep doesn’t slow down. It seems to speed up, even as I pump the breaks. I don’t see their faces but I see sweat, anticipation. I feel dread for what they’re about to undo, all of the gains of struggle that will be lost, for the soon-to-be victims. I turn to Meredith and what I see isn’t shock, or guilt either.
But I do see her even eyes suddenly widen. Snapping my head forward, I swerve the Jeep, squealing the tires black against the cracked pavement. I swivel my head back around, frantically checking the rearview to see if we hit anyone. But there’s nothing behind us but trees and asphalt. Uncanny. Rimbaud raises an eyebrow at me in the rearview. You okay? I ask him, not realizing the car is still moving forward along the slight curve of the highway. Again, I don’t speak French. He says something that sounds like I regard the burning star in front of me, whatever that means. I turn to Meredith, who looks forward along the road like nothing happened. My body, on the other hand, feels like it’s unraveling at the joints and ligaments. But I look down at my hands on the wheel, still whole.
I remember Yugoslavia, Meredith piped up immediately, nonplussed. I was still green back then, still figuring out how to work with people, yknow? Student management seemed simple enough but everything seemed to happen so fast. And that thing with the bulldozer! She laughs as carefree as a rare champagne, licks her top teeth. I learned later that it was just a wheel loader, but it’s not like the average Joe can tell the difference. The Associated Press let that one slide. She tilts her head down for a moment, and gently rests a hand on her forehead. She leaves her smile open.
We pass a stretch of road where something is glowing behind the trees. Little white and yellow lights peer at us from either side. Dull roars of a crowd also emanate between snaps of wind. A chant begins in a language I can’t place. As I wonder what the epithets could mean, I notice a powerline running along the highway. There is debris of some kind woven into the wires. The light from the forest obscures the shapes that seem to drip something viscous.
I’ll tell ya, Meredith grins, I would have given anything, and I mean anything, to have been reassigned to Asia to work Hong Kong. I mean sure, working within the former Soviets has been a fantastic career, but the commission for Hong Kong?More zeros than I care to mention!
More lights outline the perimeter of the forest. The shapes stuck in the power line become more dense, more misshapen and gnarled. I look at them and wonder what it could be. The last hurricane was months ago, I thought they had cleaned up by now.
Meredith carries on all the while. And it wouldn’t have even been that much work, she continues. We had everything in place: young people at the local colleges who studied with us, relationships with entrepreneurs, I mean they really struck gold with the whole umbrella thing, it’s gotten so much traction we’re even seeing them used in Black Lives Matter protests. A setup like that is so perfect for what we’re trying to accomplish, and we came so much closer than before. It just…she trails off, turning her head towards the night…I get the feeling she’s said too much, remembering Bonney’s words, “The cops will not tell us what they don’t know and what they think we know.” They shouldn’t, if they know what’s good for them. That’s when it hits me.
As the Jeep moves forward, our perspective shifts just enough for one of the myriad lights to shine behind the pieces of fallen debris to illuminate the unmistakable silhouette of a severed arm. The light pans from right to left, hinting at outstretched fingers turned towards the mute sky, beseeching. Radius and ulna twisted to breaking, the arm zig-zags at an early disjoint before the natural one. Finally, there is the jut of bone where the flesh can no longer hide. Then, it’s gone. The moment passes into obscurity like any other on this road. But all the broken bodies hiding between the lights are still there, at once the teeth and chewed fruit. I wretch out the window, barely holding the steering wheel straight so the whole car jaunts in step with my stomach.
I close my eyes with a deep sigh and feel my fingers dig into my palms. Wait, my hands were around the wheel…I reach above me for the overhead light and look down again and see myself gripping frayed cloth between balled fists, jutting from the dashboard where the steering wheel was like a massive rotting take-a-number ticket. It looks to have been tie-dyed and bleached over and over dozens of times. Different patterns, designs, and colors have been added and removed over years, decades probably. While the fabric is worn and washed out to all hell, I can tell it was of high quality once. Feels heavy, like broken gravel in my hands. The brown splotches flap against my lap as the now-driverless Jeep continues to rip down the dimming highway. I start to tug at the cloth, which seems to come from somewhere inside the dashboard where the steering wheel was. This is certainly going to wind up as a manufacturer’s recall if this is Jeep’s excuse for an airbag, I muse.
The cloth extends like a lolling tongue, even as I pull armfuls from the fold of the vehicle. The kaleidoscope of discolors starts to pile in the backseat. I sense Rimbaud shuffling around back there as I zealously throw the unending cloth over my face as I claw at it, highway be damned. He crawls over and reaches from behind me to open my window all the way. The wind plucks the cloth from the Jeep like a sail that still unfurls. The vinyl scrapes against the car interior and suddenly flattens against the windshield with a thwack, and as I shrink back in surprise, my eyes widen at the broad block letters. Now I see it’s a banner. The letters “MO” slowly eek their way out of nowhere, regarding me like scales in a dragon’s underbelly. They are solid black against the spilling patchwork that takes up the rest of the banner. I turn to look at the window in time to see “D” flap against the back left window, as “E” is trapped between the window’s maw. I flip the words into order in my mind. DEMO?
Sorry, Meredith mutters with a frown, old work stuff. She reaches out a hand, then stops herself. I guess the jig is up. The banner, pulled taut by the whipping wind clawing from the Jeep’s window, now unspools so quickly it produces dust, a horrific squeal, and an acrid stench. DEMOCRACY NOW! flits so quickly against the roof of the car and out the window, I can’t help but let out a fearful laugh. Now I smell the teargas, can’t escape it as more slogans of STOP THE VIOLENCE and FREE [ILLEGIBLE] fly above me. I don’t care to keep track of all the words barely backlit by the overhead light. I just clench my eyes and hear the whine and the wind snapping.
Tears would have come with the laughter anyhow, mere inches from waking up from this nightmare. Getting even darker now, the weight of shades is beginning to sag the sky towards the earth. The words on the banner form a telegram that melts into the darkening surroundings before disappearing behind us—along with the road.
Since I was young, I’ve wondered what nonexistence feels like. I’ve always pictured it as being reduced to a viewer. The question then became what does one see? Because, I mean, who am I anyway? Am I just the one who’s meant to be in this roller coaster limbo sitting next to some NGO handler and some douchebag teenage prodigy born two centuries ago? Just to recount the funny story later? And what does Meredith want with me? She wants me to be part of a larger scheme—oil, power, capital, etc. What does that make me? A worker, I guess, a want. Someone with thin enough fingers to reach the crevices rich people can’t in their own machines.
So this job, I muster once the tears have passed and the sting remains, this line of work is bigger than both of us, huh? It hurts to keep my eyes open, but I swear her smile is almost coquettish. She has nothing to hide now. I don’t do the dirty work myself, but someone has to orchestrate the story, sell the narrative, advertise for god’s sake. Not even the US of A could back a counterrevolution without majority support. She scoffs at herself. Or at least majority ambivalence. Because that’s the thing—the best thing the populous can do for us is nothing. Business as usual is all I need to get the job done. Her voice prods me with a sick, playful tone. Certainly bigger than anything you can imagine.
And now I am ashamed I was so willing to sell her my fingers. What to do with them…
Well, I say, straining to look at her, I’m sure if I think hard enough, I’ll think of something bigger than that. The pain has reached a point where my grimace can pass for a smile. And I’ll bet I’m not the only one. She rolls her head back and laughs wide into the dark. Oh honey, I’m the one who got inside your head!
As if on cue with my frustration, with Meredith’s idea of bourgeois influence cloaked in a veneer of aid, with this clown car and simulation of a highway and ego death of a road trip with clearly nowhere to go, the radio began to play. It was the TikTok audio, the one with all the ACC College Football colors and now I clearly recall how it was to the tune of WAP. I don’t cook, I don’t clean becomes Blue and yellow, garnet gold, orange green, blue and—
Meredith becomes clearly anxious as the song seems to ramp up its speed. The landscape only loses its light more thoroughly now, not that I was paying attention to the wraparound FloriBama scrub on either side of the highway. She started to murmur the names of dignitaries, wire transfers, white threads, candidates who only exist on paper, paintings kept in kremlin domes and what is stashed behind them, the many ways the word “please” can fit falsely on the American tongue, yellow, garnet gold. There are only so many coups the human mind can hold. Her head is spinning like a top, and in her flailing, her hand brushes the radio dial and changes the channel. A voice says Maybe the NBA players should go on strike! again and again, orange and—
The steering wheel and speedometer have gone silent. Light seems to well in her eyes. What does she see? What does one see after death?
Veil, void, nothingness, I think these are all correct. The new sensation awaiting me was Opacity.
By this point in the dream, the woman has torn a hole wide enough in the darkness for me to slip without a sound into the vortex left in her wake. I somehow know she can’t take it anymore, this urge to pilfer from the nearest coffer. Her hands seem to grab at things and leave little holes of black where she touched. The highway is long gone, choking somewhere below my foot on the gas. I can’t even feel where my hands rest; there is no color that can be draped against this space. This is that Opaque death that I feared, where the future ends trapped in a dark window. But The End of History doesn’t quite do it justice, because this is not a reality for escaping, but shaping.
In this quasi-vacuum I can’t help but think Milan Kundera is behind me somehow, as if he had been sitting in the backseat next to Rimbaud, saying something about how any “totalitarian” Marxian narrative would supply answers where questions are needed. Even more aloof now, Rimbaud sits back into empty space and starts writing something with his finger where the window used to be. The rearview mirror is long gone and I can’t read French anyway, but I hear the squelch of the liquid against some surface. He was always writing. It’s like nothing has changed. Well now, here they are, the questions and answers fucking each other into a know-nothing uncertainty—Kundera got that much right. But the question-everything plan seems just as totalitarian when faced within this cavity of color. Am I flailing in the sinister truth of a dialectic or just more waking doubt?
So I do the only thing I can do to cope since childhood: sing and shake and shimmy my hands. The friction begins to part the vacuum’s folds, and I can see the ends of the Opaque unravel into shades of gray—maybe just a glint of yellow. It’s a start. In fact, if this is indeed Rimbaud’s Delirium, and the Merediths of the West is a force that can be thwarted, we can’t stray from one codified mass movement, one answer to every square-lipped question. That is how the Merediths lead us astray, conflating liberation with their own genocidal aims. We can’t let them.
But maybe I can push a bit further before I wake up. So I shimmy and sing a little harder, and the colors begin to thaw transparent. I can feel the pressure against my outstretched hands and voice as the Opacity spreads into pigments. They feel warm, oranges, yellows, reds, hues in the shape of webbed harp strings expand to reveal possible futures. This will be as far as I go, one small step forward…
Now I see, the warm colors come from cinders. Manila folders, defunct flags with green wreaths, pages of notes and lines, LA ORGANIZACIÓN COMUNITARIA EN CONTRA DEL glint of jackknives cutting barbed wire, an incidental smile slicked away with the thumb, glossy leaflets and quarter sheets, so many raised fists, all burning a smoke plume towards the stars as the Sheriff’s copter begins to peek its searchlight into an adjacent yard. The pigs can’t plant evidence where it’s already been burnt; this is the two steps back. The Opaque glimmers an anguished orange and singes my hands as the secrets burn, maybe I can poke my head a little further……and I hear a voice—my voice, or the voice of a much hungrier me—say I’m awfully sorry Meredith, but it’s you who has seen too much. By this time, I allegedly woke up.
Jonce Marshall Palmer is a nonbinary poet and organizer living in Denver, CO. They are the author of the funny-shaped chapbook Searching for Smoke Rings (Ghost City Press, 2020). Find them on Twitter @masterofmusix and more of their writing at https://jmpalmer.carrd.co.