When the Cicadas Return









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Asking My Liver For Forgiveness
by Rob Cook


In the dead solar systems of my sleep
I can see through the sky’s lit windows,

bites left by liver-scarred spiders
who’ve snuck into bed with me,

their deep fatigue mined
from the hospital north of Mechanicsville.

I’m frightened because I think I see God’s hair bleeding
behind one of the windows.

In another a man scribbles
with a No. 2 pencil the word RAIN all over his walls.

And in the closest one a woman tucks a can opener
into a dark shawl, though I can’t be sure,

perhaps it’s a brown medicine bottle; the woman’s mouth moves,
I know she sings the color of sadness,

the parable of my terrors buried all over the sky
by the dragons that created us.

But when the manager of the Marion Motel
says: “You know where to come for the best possible sleep”

and the way his voice eliminates everything,
as if it’s already purchased the nightmare coordinates of my coal-black planet,

it’s difficult to tell if the tunnels between bathrooms
have dried into dead rivers

or if he knows the mattress where Aaron Tosh
and his unmarked trails to Chicago

were buried with a cocktail of bullets
and transplanted telephone confessions.

Maybe the woman who nursed my advanced
jaundice can still see my yellow eyes

moving through the winter of room number six.
“I got sick without once leaving my childhood,” I tell her.

“The pine needles will not hurt you from there,”
the woman says through her conduit of ash tray static.

It is not my own voice, the despair of the television
that doesn’t end. “I am always watching from

the livers that came before you,” she says
when the sleep creatures pass like a blur of doctors

and their searchlights of mist. Maybe she discusses
my elevated comet count with the man selling

the letters left in the vacancy sign, a blinking between
voids where one interferon raven roosts.

Maybe I hear the bird remnants of her father praying
to some unforgiven meteor in the ceiling’s camera stains.

I’m always close to a strength that doesn’t belong anywhere
because when the manager washes the sky’s curtains, I can see

to the end of the universe, the same woman sitting
by a lemon-colored house with all of my pills purring in her lap.