Fort Night

The snake is 
a sleeve the deer 

puts on, its mouth 
a beaded cuff 

in the haze men 
make of morning 

with each release 
of their fist-gripped 

guns. Is this a dream 
of shame? Is this 

a dream of potential
unmet, of possibility 

undone? School, 
no pants. Brush, 

no teeth. Podium, 
no poems. Open

door, all wall. 
Dear Monster,

none of the guests 
we disinvited arrive. 

In the darkness 
no lion comes.


Copyright © 2019 by Lisa Olstein. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 7, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“The image that set this poem in motion came from a video I happened upon online when I should have been sleeping: a large snake slowly swallowing a doe, some hunters standing around watching, all of it impossible-seeming and saturated in a dream-like way. I’m intrigued by dream logic in a very concrete sense: by the recurring dreams that inhabit us particularly but that many of us share, by the taxonomies and associative architectures dreams reveal, and by instances when waking life is uncannily dream-like not in the sense of a watered down adjective for soft-focus or aspirational, but as enacted and unnerving portraits, portals, inventions. I wanted this poem to both explore and manifest some of those questions and qualities.”
Lisa Olstein