Poetry Summer 2020

palindromic time: Interrogating Melancholy, Ancient Neuroscience

by Karen Ge

Last night I faltered
in my dream as 
a hint of poison started to race in mocking circles,
flaring into a mitosis of carbon monoxide, 
asphyxiating the air.
I dreamed you, while they said 
listen, said you make certain, terrifying, choices about your life.

Smiling benignly, they rip away your will to live
Wrap it, cold like rewashed silverware and 
emboss it on the menu, 
etching a gold filigree of choice: 
Would you like the remission today or a month ago? The disease medium rare?
Spritz sandalwood incense, seduce the rotting into a sinister black.

They have a map of the world, of the brain, 
of my brain and my body,
and there is the equator, and there 
is where you’re going,
along the optimal path to falling
off the edge of the world. 
There, there. 

Speechless in the dream, I strain to ask
why it so shameful to be too weak to stand, to take a sabre for a staff?
Because when I try to startle awake, it feels like stumbling,
wild, through toxic air, my arms heaving and swinging at massive ghosts,
Sprinting away from candlelit banquet illusions.

They feed you until you’re drunk on 
silence, until you forget the balm of loneliness 
and breathless stillness, the erupting atoms 
underneath the proteins hormones serous fluid, 
circulating endlessly like stardust,
Until you’re drugged, unseeing
as the cancer metastasizes — 
seething bloody, bursting raw, 
thrashing out of body.

Half-awake, the very thing, backwards, 
is still the same as you and I, 
inside-out and torn, worn-out, our
hearts ripped open, thinking right wanting 
wrong wanting right writhing raw

raw and writhing, right? your wanting wrong
wanting right thinking of opening 
our hearts, ripping at worn-out seams, insides spilling out.
I am the same as you,
still backwards, startling half-awake.

No. They don’t have a map of me, my mind and my life.
Nor of you. They can’t see our cycles of despair and triumph, 
nebulous clouds and mountain-texture, the single neon-lighted diner and slowly rolling fog.

I don’t have a map either, but I am writing one. 

I am writing one in stone and copper and glass, in the faint glow 
of your skin and in the night air.
I am writing from demon-spirits to salivating dogs,
from subterranean tightropes to that slow, 
aching, freedom of acceptance —
of hope, and maybe,
of love.

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