Conjunctions:72 Nocturnals

In the Next Night
In agitation along sleep’s surface

dreams the monster, the angular, the slimy, the anything goes, the corpse

who strokes the tigers with rather weak jaws

in a jump cut, on an icy blue couch, red queen

on mute––

the nearly taken, the just-about-to-escape voices caught midstream

say they do not want the story to end when what they mean is

how do we separate

the next night from its screwed-in

light, the weariness of fearing a man in the dark comes a blade out of nowhere

while visionaries we carry like pepper spray

play hangman, visit solitaire,

clear clouds off the moon

so we can see our lady weep, our boy––

genitalia gently shaped into other genitalia

the brain fluid in its cave  each to their own needs

and the old wandering in black robes, opossums, the star magnolia

stilling, trembling, coyotes, foxes,

rats, red and blue states commingled into a silvery waxy balm

with ocher highlights and peach

undertones, a cosmogony

grown distant, unconstituted,

darkness materializing

until every house––if there is a house––

becomes more a faint shed in an interplanetary dust, apothecary-like, something it

would take

a fluoroscope to see––

And the women weep because they have been violated

and not for the first time, and the men clench through what they have done

and the men who did not do it and did not not do it

learn to stand next to the women

a shoulder-to-shoulder thing      and the women and the men
who had been violated get so exhausted they lie down to spoon

with all who have been violated    the women who did it

The softest of sheets fall

A clef of music occurs

Images (almond soap, tea tree oil) tossed like

wash on wash, clean laundry on top of dirty.

Fascism, facial, fascism, facial,

requiring all the oxygen would inevitably become an elegiac outcome for the human.

Storying all night and dead asleep all day Scheherazade said

she did not want to finish when what she meant was

stay, I am a spirit just coffining up his dream timer.

Day done, we sweep

our clippings from a desk. no end.

near to God. a finish of the finish on a finish in the balm.

in the great chain of unbroken events, nothing––

no end. one voice beside another. a chain,

a pulling at one end makes a movement

on the other.

I am only a howl of wind,

no one to make afraid, stay.

Gillian Conoley’s A Little More Red Sun on the Human: New and Selected Poems (Nightboat Books, 2019) won the Northern California Book Award. She received the 2017 Shelley Memorial Award for lifetime achievement from the Poetry Society of America. Conoley is poet-in-residence at Sonoma State University, where she edits Volt. Her translation of three books by Henri Michaux, Thousand Times Broken (City Lights), excerpts from which were first published in Conjunctions:61, A Menagerie, was one of Publisher’s Weekly’s top-ten fall 2014 poetry releases.