Joshua Marie Wilkinson

I Had An Upsetting Dream

And here even dreams are like

a network of tendons.

                                                                                                —Gennady Aygi

                                                                                                (tr. Sarah Valentine)


Here, meaning the carried-through

elsewhere swallowed whole by death?


Jesus, that’s grim enough. The little sun up there

hurling itself at us through the clouds. 


I shake my dick to get the urine out of me

sit down to tea, appalled at my stupid

imagination. Whatever’s beyond incongruence.


It’s not a maze or a riddle, it’s like

a network of tendons.


Then the dream where 

I’m fucking my

brother. Just like that.


There’s nothing to share of it, other

than the blunt fact of its transmission

behind my moving eyes. 


Stunned in the night

by what I’m made capable of seeing. 


But zilch for eros, and thank god.

If only I could explain it away

in smart couplets, or a rape joke.


But it was an act. As unreal

as anything true. 


Like biting into an apple. 

Diving into a lake at night.

Pulling a candle out of a birthday cake.


So, what are you doing here?

What have you come to find out about yourself 

in my privacy?


Certain things should not be

shared with strangers.

But we are not strangers anymore.

You knew that already.


What else did you not realize 

you knew before you began?

The Night Was Curiously Mild

Feeling the nausea rising, he ran out into the courtyard and vomited on a

dwarf palm tree. The night was curiously mild. —Michel Houellebecq


Yet where have I been

since the last time I did more

or less the same thing?


A few places, basically.

Sick and alive.


Putrid, glowing, reacquainting

myself with that regal stench.


Slow to get upright in the morning,

hesitating, too, to do anything 

like braking late in the muddy evening

when the dark is just getting good on me.


What belongs to you?

Your clothes?


Very funny. 

Evidently, not your name either.


Not even the bad music or

loud bad music you’ve been hoping

to avoid. You have only

to shut up and laugh.


It’s that or die.

Like it’s an either/or.


Like you had choice to begin with.

By which I must mean


Before you know it

everybody’s dressed.


Whoever you came with is asleep.

And the curtain’s smothered the cast.


You’re a bad liar, you know that?

I can tell by the words you’ve selected.


Even your mouth doesn’t believe them.

Everything is Poised

Everything is poised between readiness and decay.

                                                                                    —Rachel Cusk


Or between a stately wish to outdo 

and merely crumpling in on yourself,

that’s the feeling I get, standing out here,

as traffic sucks by. The gravitational pull


the unyielding daydream of unconsummated

but nearly touchable desire.


Out here in the street, under the new bad lights

the city has installed to keep our eyes

patrolling each other.


What sort of visions are you able to have 

when you revive from dreaming?


What did you learn from the dead you spoke with?


Whose voices have you decided to leave in the past

and how did you pull such an

inhumane feat off on yourself?


It’s not all that easy to forget death. To linger in

the moonlight under a lamppost like an advertisement

for something alluring.


Stub out the cigarettes in the sink. Take the phone off

the hook and leave it. Ha ha, the hook. Get it? 

Day After New Year's Day

When the light came 

free from its source we were 

left in a kind of wet blackness

and the sounds—footfall

or bored chatter from the aluminum 

steps of the stairwell

a mewling stray cat that had gotten 

itself locked inside the entry—

soaked into everything. 


It was snowing.


The snow was stacking up onto 

vehicles and signs, except the street where 

it seemed to just melt in the gleaming grit 

of the asphalt. 


The phones rang upstairs. 


The partygoers slipped by below the windows

in the wrong shoes under an umbrella, flapping. 


The smell of chlorine from the ventilated steam 

of the public pool pushed out and I handed your cigarette 

back to you, unlit.


Death’s not an invitation. It’s just the better part of desire. 


No, it’s just…


Fuck it. I want to go back down. I want

the lowest thing available to memory. I want, 

I suppose, to go back in time. And I’m told 

that this remains quote-unquote impossible.

It'll Get Worse Before it Gets Worse


The black heart of the moon’s visible 

through the trees from here.


Where are you?


I’m alone on the road 

with a dead phone.


The birds are flapping overhead 

but there’s not much light to be guided by.


If any horizon becomes visible enough to follow.


Forget the rain’s smear,

the chafe of fabric at the calf.


The money ran out. The diners are stuffed 

and back for more.


Each terrible thing I said to the child 

will get repeated hopefully as a joke.


And like language, these gestures, or a certain way of nodding

one’s head, it all eases in with less than a breath.


Forget the song’s words, the order of the band’s set tonight.


The black moon’s heart’s 

got that sinister bent 

and I want to get

touched at by the snakes. 


One of the students in my class 

used to go bear hunting with his two uncles.


They played recordings of distressed animals 

to lure in tentative animals to kill.


This practice is illegal in many places. 

Because it’s so very effective.


I split open the apple 

and hand the good half to a child on the bus

nestled in under the arm of her sleeping mother.


Love from here is a long way to go.


Get on your bike and ride 

through the lights.

Joshua Marie Wilkinson is the author of Meadow Slasher (Black Ocean 2017) and other things.