The Innisfree Poetry Journal

by David Salner

Slum-Summer Headache



It brushes at the edge of sleep, whispers to me

of something shadow-like, until I sense

the parting of a veil suspended in a room

immense and cold; then footfalls, soft

as a breath, emerging from the night,

crossing a ballroom made of glass, pausing

before a door—I hear it tap, tap

gently at first, not wanting to disturb, a purr

of muffled knuckles—I try to answer, can’t,

some flaw in me, a dream

gone haywire—then drumbeats, an insisting,

a buffeting of dead-blow fists,

a rage upon the wood, until I know

how this will end, a breaking-in, a final

splintering of the door of sleep . . . .

I fight with it till 5 a.m., get up to shake it,

sheets soaking, a fever starting, stoking

in this airless room. I turn off my alarm

and hoist the airshaft window, inhale

the dawn, praise as I breathe

the rot and mold of last night’s rain.

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