Roy Orbison and John Milton Are Still Dreaming

You know what I mean: In the instant
of waking in bliss, the whole body smiles—

He's still alive—She came back—They didn't mean it—
We forgive and are forgiven—It all turned out—

And then the hand claws the duvet,
seized by the real, as all that's warm just drops.

I know you know. But I seek a potion
to make me dream of the actual with the same fervor,

so I'll wake to happy facts: It's spring! It's raining! Robins!
Someone will return a phone call today! My son

has watched the clock and let me nap for 35 minutes!—
and does not notice my face smacked wet

by the snap of the delusion, unmatched in sweetness,
that you promised to hold me always.

More by April Bernard

The Going

The cloth edge of certainty
has shredded down to this:
God and love are real,
but very far away.
If I go to Istanbul, will I return?
That is not one of the permitted questions.
When I go to Istanbul, how will I bear to return?
I could slip into the small streets
to the high plain and the Caucasus—

It's all alone, the returning,
the going. The cloth,
a soft holland whose blocks of blue and lemon
once cheered me in a skirt,
now dries dishes. God and love
are very far away, farther even
than the mountains in the east.

English as a Second Language

That voice—from the tv—that voice,
thick smoky cheese, or, no—
dark as burnt flan, sweet,
venison-sweet in the heavy smoke
of a tavern hearth, and hot as brandy.
I served that voice for months,
in a theater on 13th near Third
where losers are the ones who crack first.
I gave you azured hours, nights,
and you placed your soul,
pretty as a dead mouse, at my feet.
Gutturals, the candles guttering backstage.
Your voice went everywhere
you dared not put your hands.

Four Winds

At least that many buffet here, and I
erect as the monument despite my hope to be flattened.
If only the winds could take the horse-sobs
that heave from me, wind-whipped
without the grace of speech; if only
these small creatures with amused, skeptical eyes
could offer me their chittering, their business
of fetching and nesting in the fields.
One day I fear the barometer's shift
will shatter the surface of the vessel,
jarring me into bloody words—catastrophe
will fill the strophe then—
Unless, winds, you take my speech and rend it
into untranslatable rainy hootings.