I got up
& when I woke up the blinds were shut
the light made bars across the floor
I heard you were gone when I woke up
when I heard you were gone I returned
when I woke up I came back to the homestead five years later
I stood in your yard, your parents had moved
our ramp was dismantled & in a pile
the wood was warped from winter thaw
& spring rot with carpenter ants crawling
in cracks, I crossed the clearing
where we once camped, there was a thunderhead
with thick swelling air & deer & packs of wild dogs
I walked round your house
I jimmied open a window near the ground
I climbed in your cellar, held my hands up
& walked through the room until I felt a cord
the bulb buzzed on, I watched the room flood
a sea of roaches scurried in from walls
like warriors storming out from trenches
& they swarmed around me like I was steaming meat
they crawled up my forearms, covered my neck
sweet Jesus I was wearing cockroach armor
Did they help you weather the threat of death?
Doc Jenny asked, she was scribbling notes
I saw cities collapsing when I looked in her eyes
Tell me about your dreams, she said
I said, Well, I keep dreaming I’m writing a poem
& the poem is mostly about dreams I’m having
Doc Jenny squinted, she slowly cocked her head
I said, It’s also about my friend who died
a droplet ran down her office wall
Let me see it, she said, I gave her the draft
she read it quickly, she furrowed her brow
& tapped her foot on the floor
There are some problems in here, she said
she was pointing a finger
I wasn’t sure if she was pointing at me
or at the poem
she said all my characters were unlikable
that I fetishized the feminine but there weren’t even any women in the poem
she said, You’re doing a disfavor to your friend who died
she said he was a proxy, she said the body represented nothing
she said, I have something for you
she opened up a drawer & brandished a handkerchief
she fastened it round my face, she corded my wrists
& gripped my shoulders, spun me in a circle & took my hand
& led me out of the office, outside to nowhere I’d ever been
I heard machinery humming as she led me along
I felt the earth sink with each of my steps
there was a rumble like the world was running aground
Where we headed, I said
Inside your skull, she said
But I’m already there, I said
I saw outlines of faces flying towards me
Are you sure, she said
I am always unsure as a one-leggèd frog
Look through that blindfold, she said, Open your eyes
Are you a real doctor, I said
Shut up, she said
I thought of Luke with the blast shield down
I saw lightpricks flicker through the black
I saw thousands of teeth & puckered lips
I saw a comet spiraling round
I saw red & yellow, I saw fabric puffing
I saw the giant parachute we used in P.E.
how it breathed in heavy like a giant’s belly
how it went from nothing to raise up dome-like
when the whistle screeched & we sat inside it
on warm linoleum facing each other
we were safe & cross-leggèd, there was Arcadian air
there was sepia light, life was strange
but not horrific, there were forty-four eyes & it was dark
with bright edges like a kind of homestead, fingers crept inside
I slept in there / I saw the apex
I stared where colors morphed & saw them turn
I shut my eyes
I saw a ramshackle circus tent’s swaying roof
& someone cycling diagonal wire like a knifeslash running through the air
I was the one in the stands
popcorn crunched beneath my sneakers
I took a cloud of cotton candy
& felt it turn fluid in my mouth
I felt sugar crusting on my teeth
I felt them rapidly decay
there were three rings
in the first was a lioness leaping through a fiery hoop
with a man whipping her as she went
she was roaring with saliva & a half-gone voice
and the man raised the hoop up every time
& every time a voice rumbled round me
She who jumpeth must jumpeth higher
the speakers echoed
the lioness stumbled & her ears sparked
& burned & the line of fire cloaked her body
& her tail was a torch now flicking in air
the lion hollered, she writhed on her back
frantically kicking, engulfed in flames
& the man grabbed a water basin
he smirked & poured it over her
smoke rose, she quivered, she looked naked
then, whiskers twitching, her mane plastered
with liquid dripping from her sallow breast
she was shaking but there was something alive inside her
our eyes met & I felt an ache in my belly
I felt my insides turn over fire
I felt the oracular scream from space
in the second ring was a unicycling bear
it was wearing a skirt & making circles
a small boy was at the edge & tossing twigs in the spokes
& throwing pebbles, & when they hit the bear
it would fumble & continue pedaling
the boy met my eyes, his teeth were shining
That bear is a goddamn boy, he said
the boy opened the gate, the dogs came running
they bit the bear’s ankles as it made giant circles
it wobbled one second & then kept moving
it was trailing blood, the dogs were howling
it was a red ring like the void of a sacrificial ritual
or the circle you paint with a finger on the maiden’s chest
as her pupils disappear & the spirit enters
& the boy beat the dogs with a heavy stick
their eyes went black, their lips were like levees with foam of saliva
they were born to raise young but the men made them killers
they were born to sleep in packs in the pineneedle clearing
with their bodies piled & every belly rising up in a single second
but the men made them killers
& then there was the ringmaster in the center ring
he said, We need a participant
I tried to look small, I didn’t say nothing
the spotlight hovered slowly through the stands
it landed on my face, for I was blinded
This kid, the ringmaster said, Now come on down
I stood up & stumbled to the center ring
there was no crowd, there were empty seats
& dim blue light, a dark wind entered town like a knight on a horse
the air smelled like meat & the tent was swaying
the ringmaster cracked his whip in the air
Who’s ready to begin the game? he said
a roar erupted from the mouths of no one
& he strapped metal bands around my wrist
they were linked to wire, the wires ran to a giant switch
& I sweated like a condo wall in June
Okay, he said, You know the rules
you know your lifelines, you know your basic
bodily functions, you know the melancholy feeling
of an endless summer, so here’s the first question:
why did Moeris go to town?


Marty-CainMarty Cain is the author of the forthcoming book Kids of the Black Hole (Trembling Pillow Press, 2017). He holds degrees from Hamilton College and the University of Mississippi, and is currently a PhD student in English Language & Literature at Cornell University. His writing has appeared (or is forthcoming) in Fence, Jacket2, Gigantic Sequins, The Pinch, Deluge, Tarpaulin Sky, and elsewhere.