by James Miller
That night a demon hand slipped under the mattress just behind your traitor head.
Flicked, flecked your body up and out. You squealed and flew through the nightair
towards the greywall, slimed down the mottle to puddle on the floor. Rich bile
but no breath. Flatlined like an under-miked opening act. You thought: dying isn’t
so interesting. You would have liked to work through the back-catalog. The remasters.
The extra discs with outtakes and demos. The tour photos. The limited editions.
The silkscreens. The hotel parties. The greenroom passkeys. Hours or seconds later
you woke to light of a long hallway, shell-white doors, numbers but no names.
The claw at your spine flexed, you stumbled and sucked in. What did you know?
Not your name, nor where and when you were born. The word was wait. Wait,
only wait. Could one of these doors be your own? Unlocked, an easy turn, but not
your bed. You followed the curve of the hallway to stairs, down. Sat on the lip
of the first step, recognized the unwelcome shape of knuckle, then wrist. Long
and long, stilled on those stairs, and most of you returned. You thrummed the bassline
to out-bloody-rageous, the slippery promise of 1970. Stacked olive wood, sapped logs
and leapings, gold-great. Followed Francis, convinced he knew what the birdies
had to say. Poured slabs for ghost town, greyed out so the organ sounded like black
plastic bags of lawnleaves—punch each gut and it sags only once, a syllable shaped
as shame. Either you’d find a hot bath or not find one. But first, the hospital
and a week of tests. The doctors diagnosed, and the teachers said: Dostoyevsky, yes?
You have read him, yes? We are all a mass of categories, sweet and sweetless ones.
Thank these times, and the pills, the clean colorless pills. Not so long ago the jesus
cops would have taken you in, nipped or juiced your jism, locked your heart
in a glass tube and tossed it into their dear, dead sea.
James Miller won the Connecticut Poetry Award in 2020. Recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in A Minor, Typehouse, Eclectica, Rabid Oak, pioneertown, Off Course, North Dakota Quarterly, Yemassee, Phoebe, Mantis, Scoundrel Time, Permafrost, Grey Sparrow Review, Blue River, 8 Poems, SOFTBLOW and elsewhere.