A poem addressed to Edgar Allan Poe
I had been alive for 39 circumnavigations of the sun,
and I had stopped dreaming—it seemed once and for all.
I had no desire for the terror of unreason, for those disturbances
in the dark that you lazily mistook for art.
Sleep was a velvet sack.
It blacked out the world, without help from the pharmaceutical.
I counted myself cured.
But then my husband went to hospital to bypass death, and I found myself
thrust back into nightmares of powerlessness.
My father was waiting in my childhood home, stooped before the open door
of the potbelly stove, the glass crusted black.
He was feeding in logs, one after another, just to be destroyed,
while peering into the glowing cavity
to see what he had done.
He did not care that I was watching.
My voice was reckless but as if bound to a corpse.
When I finally awoke, it was to a room bruised by stars
and their irradiated shadows.
The red ring of the terrible Saturnus, as you described it,
was soundlessly encircling itself.
The blinds were no barrier against the pestilence of such a night.
I used electric light and a barricade of timber drawers
humped along the carpet and wedged against the door—
a trick of veterans.
I rued the knife, now kept in the kitchen drawer,
where the rational, I had been told, stored their tableware.
I tasted the bitterness of the rifle’s black and heard the steely clack
of the bullets I would hide on those otherworldly nights
when I was small and fear was so much bigger than me.
If I protected myself so shamelessly, even though I was now grown,
it was because I was alone.
My husband was asleep in a ward of strange men.
His breastbone had been carved apart, his heart
(in all its tenderness) exposed as mere flesh,
his mammary arteries stripped from their nest.
Our son was in his own bed, an avalanche of fluorescent stars and moons
cascading from the ceiling onto his infant head.
He was just across the hall, where I had laid him to rest,
with all the love I held in my maternal breast.
Yet I did not think once to save him.
Maria Takolander most recent poetry collection is The End of the World (Giramondo, 2014). She is an associate professor in writing and literature at Deakin University in Geelong, Victoria.