When I Had the Haint

— Justin Phillip Reed

Feeling that I needed to be beaten into stillness
ended where I knew it would: I slept in the shape
of a saint, palms upturned as if to blossom
gladly into wounds. Beyond the wall, wind lifted
from autumn’s languor a choir of foliage to pronounce
its epithets. Where, where. The litany was a wreath
of vultures circling, was a certainty I wanted
everything to do with.

                                        The dream thickened
and dropped where it rotted. In a swoop, a violence
the complexion of lichen buried my wrists beneath
its knees and sucked my gasp into a mouth more ancient
than burial. Had me knocking in my chest like an echo
in a log. Like the wings of a skein whose upset

the scum forgets in seconds: the hairs up off my flesh.

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