Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2018  Vol. 17 No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
 print preview
 download audio

Portrait of the Alcoholic with Home Invader and Housefly

It felt larger than it was, the knife
that pushed through my cheek.

Immediately I began leaking:
blood and saliva, soft as smoke. I had been asleep,

safe from sad news, dreaming
of my irradiated hairless mother

pulling a thorn from the eye of a dog.
I woke from that into a blade. Everything

seemed cast in lapis and spinning light,
like an ancient frieze in Damascus.

Listen to me, faithful silence: somehow
we’ve become strangers. Growing up

I kept a housefly tied to a string tied to a lamp.
I fed him wet Tic Tacs and idly assumed

he would outlive me. When he died
I opened myself to death, the way a fallen tree

opens itself to the wild. Now my blood
is drying on the pillow. Now the man

who held the knife is gone, elsewhere
and undiminished. I can hardly remember

anything about him. It can be difficult
telling the size of something

when it’s right above you—the average
cumulus cloud weighing as much

as eighty elephants. The things I’ve thought I’ve loved
could sink an ocean liner, and likely would

if given the chance. From my window,
the blinking windmills seem

further away than ever before. My beard
has matted itself into a bloody poultice,

and a woman’s voice on TV is begging for charity.
She says please and reads a phone number. Soon I will

mumble a few words in Arabic to settle back
into sleep. If morning arrives, I will wash my face.  

return to top