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Reconstructed Demon Dreams

Poems by Thomas Zimmerman

Print version Copyright © 2006 by Thomas Zimmerman Digital version Copyright © 2012 by Thomas Zimmerman Acknowledgments_____________________________________ I thank the editors of the following publications, which first published these poems, sometimes in slightly different form:

The Bible of Hell: “The Blue Flame” The Clichéd Cliché: “Insomnia” Descending Darkness: “Vanilla” The Driftwood Review: “Four Duets” and “’Like Flowers Continually Perishing’” Edgz: “Occult Blood” Frugal Chariot: “A Small Room in Hell” Glyph: “Demigoddess of the Huron” Goddess of the Bay: “I Dream of the Teeth Mother” Lunatic Chameleon: “Elsewhere” The Plastic Tower: “Insomniac” Quietus: “Strength of Dreams” The Shantytown Anomaly: “Persephone’s Balm” Simulacrum: “Travels with My Demon Lover” Sorcery & Science: “River Daughter” Triptych Haiku: “Infernal Muse” Wanderings: “What We Still Need to Say”

Front cover photo: Detail from Coventry Cathedral, August 2006, by the author. Author photograph by Ann Zimmerman. Book design by Tom Zimmerman. Zetataurus Press, c/o Tom Zimmerman, 2012 Marra Dr, Ann Arbor MI 48103,

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Reconstructed Demon Dreams Poems by Thomas Zimmerman Contents___________________________________________________________ Strength of Dreams Travels with My Demon Lover Insomnia Persephone’s Balm River Daughter Demigoddess of the Huron Elsewhere Vanilla “Like Flowers Continually Perishing” Four Duets Occult Blood I Dream of the Teeth Mother The Blue Flame Insomniac A Small Room in Hell Infernal Muse What We Still Need to Say

4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 14 16 18 19 20 21 22 23


Strength of Dreams___________________________________ Across the gulf of time and space, and back, the psyche stretches, flexes, strains, and then contracts to feed the waking mind's sore lack of archetypes until it's drowned again. So Poe and Lovecraft and Baudelaire, bereft of the quotidian, estranged from all mundanity, still give us what is left: their power to enrapture and appall. GarcĂ­a MĂĄrquez, T.S. Eliot, Macbeth, the Shelleys, Edvard Munch's The Scream, and others nourish us as well, but what sustains us better than the fecund dream? So, search the universe's breadth and length: there's nothing stronger than the dreamer's strength.


Travels with My Demon Lover___________________________ I travel light: no mistresses except my demon lover. She's a heavy weight around my soul, an albatross I hate to love, a psychic torturer adept at baring places where my evil's kept, repressed desires too dark to see, too great to fight each night when, rapt, she dangles bait too sweet to shun, and over which I've wept. My sleep she taints, my dreams she haunts: I've swum the guts of fierce Leviathan and been spat out; I've lain within a Gorgon's lap, gone stony hard, then blind and deaf and dumb; I've danced with Kali, burned all worlds in sin. We travel light, but pain's on every map.


Insomnia___________________________________________ I want to shroud myself in sleep, and when I'm whole at last, collected, I'll unwrap, and, gliding like a spider, I'll entrap these demons that are plaguing me again. I'll hunt them where they slither in the fen of my unconscious, where their ravens flap and croak upon my sweating chest, where clap of thunder drives them home to hearts of men. But now, I lie here bleeding and unstrung, with harpies feeding on my eyes, with hounds of Hecate between my legs, with sly chimeras of my fevered mind and tongue all whispering the phrase that knows no bounds: "No, I don't want to sleep; I want to die."


Persephone’s Balm___________________________________ She feels the pulsing hearts of strong-willed men who vomit Lethe’s draught, remember death and piquant parts of life: the lover’s breath that reddens passion’s buried embers when the body’s ashen gray; the surging blood that fuels the poem, prayer, public work; the wine that whets then lulls the mind; the murk of moral choices, then the darkest flood…. Persephone embraces all of those who spite mortality: She dies and rises; she resurrects the living from the dead with asphodel caresses. In her bed, these men become Osiris, Dionysus— great gods who lived and loved and died and rose.


River Daughter_______________________________________ A face in the water:

Daughter? Me? A wreath of eyeless fish, a diadem of weeds. * I’m alive, tolerant of pain, accepting the fact that I’ll die, energy and matter merely recombined. But what of you? What tumbling of cosmic locks opened the portal to let you through? * Green-skinned girl,

my features I see in the deep cold water, not living but rich, strange, changed, inhumanly free.


Demigoddess of the Huron_____________________________ Green and gold leaves cling to the sides of her face. While some spirits slide off the diurnal earth, she frees energies from trees— tinctures, whispers, oozings, emanations that flow into her torso. Her hair makes wings of the wind. The planets, pale wanderers, beg the light of her eyes. She chants in a bower, words mingling with the fragrant smoke from her fire. Last night I slept in her river. The cattails moaned with damselflies, turquoise, olive, and rose. She dove with me to the river under all rivers: I drank, and was cleansed. Now her light falls on me: Like a flower, I unfurl, and we rise to the world above the world.


Elsewhere___________________________________________ Elsewhere was her middle name, for that was her center, her heart. He'd probed her scalp to look for little horns; he'd rubbed her shoulder blades, thinking them the stubs of amputated wings; and when she took him to the black abyss, steeped his soul in darkness, he learned that there was nothing there: Immortality? All he wanted was Elsewhere.


Vanilla______________________________________________ It's what I smell in the rumpled silk of her hair and along the warm velour folds of her skin. Sweet and goldenwhite, to be sure— but spicy and infernally enticing when, with a touch or a look or a murmur or a bite, she reminds me of the darkness— of the beans, of the earth, of the humid nights, of the death and decay feeding new life— that nourishes my delight. I tell myself then that our love is right, but I sense, too, the bewitching aroma of fright.


“Like Flowers Continually Perishing”_____________________ 1. You’re planting white impatiens in the shade under the front-yard crab apple tree. Your potted annuals—red, orange, yellow, purple, green— flutter, flex, disheveled by the breeze. 2. On the backyard deck, we’re drinking ale under a cat’s cradle of power lines, expecting rain by midnight. Birds squawk, hidden in the trees. They see that big brown cat prowling the cedars. 3. This morning in bed I rubbed my face in warm pink petals. Today you cut and bring in dark pink peonies I’ve never seen, and say watch out for ants. 4. Yesterday we saw a crow the size of a small dog. Perched on a dirt patch in a neighbor’s lawn where a dying tree has been removed, he didn’t fly when we jogged by.


5. This house is dark red brick, but the white trim paint is peeling. Our crab apple tree, fooled by a false spring, has gotten its flowers frozen off. 6. “Like flowers continually perishing,” says an ancient Aztec poem. Something tells me that we haven’t even started the hard part of our lives. 7. Let’s walk around to the front yard, bring your beer, I’ll rest my hand on the small of your back, we’ll see how pretty the apple leaves look against these rain clouds crowding the west.


Four Duets__________________________________________ 1. My eye holds a bouquet of goldfinches. They fly. When you sip your beer, your breasts rise. We're crushed between earth and sky. My mother lies in a hospital bed, hoping to die of a broken leg. 2. Dead spiders on the windowsill. At the kitchen sink, we run our hands through a colander full of water and dried pinto beans. There's something precious knotted deep inside all flesh. 3. To the west, sails translucent in blue Lake Michigan haze. Cool tree-shade, graffiti on the gray cliff, a bottle of wine in my backpack. To the east,

you, a bolt of light on the green-black bluff. 14

4. A clearing in the woods:

the sun pools,

weeds glow

in their own drowning. You rub your lips with a wine cork— a man rises out of the earth, his face a paisley of blue roots.


Occult Blood_________________________________________ A yellow-eyed panther's jumped an impala, it sinks its teeth into the silken, twisted neck. Turbaned archers hunt on horseback. A pink-centered flower binds the worlds together: * All of this on a rug my father made for me, where once a woman lay astride me. Her dark blonde hair dangling down, her blue-veined breasts bobbing, still she says, "I'm gonna get you . . . . * And I'm down in a dark, wet place. I hope the Mother who holds ankles will pull me deeper: "Did you dive or fall?" she asks, and rakes the dormant beige grass on my scalp, nurses me, tells me that we're born to suffer. * I see purple wings over the city, and at a clinic, a stooped man with tubes in his nose who pulls his own oxygen tank on a handcart. I see my phlebotomist's matronly smile: Occult blood is the name of a test on her chart. *


Something rustles in the cedar hedge. My wife has passed her doctoral comps, but when she began, cancer ate her dad. Her sheathed skull says the grape hyacinths scattered in the neighbors' grass remind her of penises. I say they remind me of the other. * Together in a smoky bar, we drink bitter ale, eat salads with flowers on top, listen to jazz. Later, we buy books by Rilke, by Bly. As we walk to the car, I hold her hand: Night powders down. We take the pain silently.


I Dream of the Teeth Mother___________________________ after Robert Bly

When the tart wine of consciousness wears off, she’s there: breasts and hips immense to suggest abundance, laughing, but with bees all over her face. I am near a dark place with her. Such teeth! I enter, and am shredded.


The Blue Flame______________________________________ Oxen under our Earth's crust tramp the mantle to keep the fiery core wheeling, while we lie like headless frogs bred in labs, torsos aquiver with dammed words. Water from an overturned vase fingers its way across the dining-room table: we dream of fresh blue rivulets, of rebirth as tangible as thirst, of boys of light, girls of earth. Gunshots echo in the highlands; God lies green and bleeding on the shadow-streaked lawn; somewhere a whore, with fever-blisters for nipples, digs a hard white root from bitter black dirt. An owl sits, solemn as a clock, in daytime tree-shade; sunlight casts the scalp of a rainbow onto the bedroom carpet—Gog leaps up, like a blue flame from a gas oven, to free us!


Insomniac___________________________________________ For you, the sandman’s gift is only grit under your lids. Your bedroom glares, a huge jukebox. You’ve flipped to the B-side of your brain, that scratchy 45 that races on 78. You toss and turn, fidget and stare. Your alarm clock looms, a Medusa head, though its face won’t turn you to stone. Sideshow at midnight. You count sheep, but each dings, redundant as a gallery duck. You’d die for a drink of water. You thrash, a fat, blue, clammy mackerel—caught in the bedspread’s net. Your snoring spouse, that soft log, dreams lumberjack dreams. Saws rasp. Tim-ber! Shavings chafe your skin. The whimper in your throat swells to a howl. A stray dog, you lick the moon’s yellow ice, and like it.


A Small Room in Hell_________________________________ My chair is hard with a straight back for the Calvinist in me. The manual typewriter is old as sin and the ribbon is pale. My hands hammer. I no longer know the meanings of words. But the grinning man comes to take my pages every day.


Infernal Muse________________________________________ Her love-words rustle lilac breeze. My soul is salt: Thunder rumbles hard. * Inspiration pours down: On the writing desk, my bloody skullcap rocks. * She hovers above: Like Baudelaire, I chew her hair, taste absinthe, art-sin. * In her colander, black beans we rinse turn to bees: I eat them, and sing. * Dark wet streets plastered with red, brown, and yellow leaves: words she’s torn from me. * Gritty eyelids, smell of fish, evergreen pricking me: She never leaves. 22

What We Still Need to Say_____________________________ What’s happened in the palace of your heart? Has the queen hanged herself? Has her son torn out his eyes? Never mind. Take my hand. Throw away your walking stick. Don’t worry about the road ahead. No one’s ever known the way.


Thomas Zimmerman teaches English and directs the Writing Center at Washtenaw Community College, in Ann Arbor, MI.

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Reconstructed Demon Dreams: Poems  

Poems by Thomas Zimmerman