by Meredith DeLong
After Francisco Goya
He would wake to ink-stained fingertips,
The flourish of his signature streaked across the page like ash,
The sleeve of the overcoat worth a week’s wages ruined
By the mistake of a head laid in arms
When the eyelids drooped too far.
He would wake to a tingling foot that slept
More peacefully than he ever did,
To a cramped neck creaking and cracking like
The rickety chair beneath his slumped weight.
He hopes to wake to these nuisances and more
If it means waking at all.
He tries to avert from the monsters, but they
Besiege, drawing closer, movements pulsing
Like a metronome, beckoning.
These creatures inhabit the other life too,
The increasingly distant and dreamlike life, though
In this darkness their feathers and pelts and scales
Glisten so silver he recognizes his own fearful eyes
Reflected hundredfold in the beasts’ curves.
He cannot move. His legs
Disobey the brain’s commands to retreat, chest
Stricken with the inability to heave, eyelids
Betraying again in their refusal to shield him.
A heartbeat resounds through his bones, yes,
But like an incessant pounding on the door
In the night’s loneliest hours; he does not trust it.
An owl swoops forward, his favorite
Fountain pen in an outstretched talon, and
He wakes to ink-stained fingertips.