Tonight, your dream’s casting calls
for a long-haired killer. In off the lots,
past the serpents, dogs, goddesses,
visitors from the stars, and all
the other bit-parters languishing
in patches of shade, he approaches
the immense Quonset hut of your sleeping
consciousness. This one’s sure
and some neural wraith has dressed him
in denim and leather, powdered him
pale with cremation ash. Hint of soldier
and pinch of camp victim, his lips
stitched with hate-silk into a seen-too-much
seam, and the shadow-crease of each
vertical ditch in the land of his face
an unpsalmed valley of death. He’s broken
out of your deepest prison, stolen
his gun back, silver-blue barrel,
ebony handle in his left hand
as he enters the scene, a bar full of guzzlers
and all your kin, even your departed
mother and father, not to mention
friends you’ve abandoned, friends in the ground,
your ex-lovers, your ex-wife,
and the old hooded one no one knows
you’ve been studying under for years. Who would ever
dream, even in your dreams, you’d trained
as a killer too? Before any other
players have looked up from their beers,
or registered the clop of the newcomer’s
boots on the boards, the blade of your own right
hand flies through the lace of smoke,
lands like an ax on the stalk of his neck,
you hear a bone-crack, and his gun goes
clunk on the planks. Then the crash—
the demon’s elongate mass, having lost
all electrical ties between muscle and brain,
now a humanish ridge of flesh
on the hard floor of the mind. You crouch
Is he finished?
Severed such that the chest won’t fill?
Not another breath? The thorax is still.
But the eyes, open, and a slow blink,
then a stare, you think, of surprise.
The dream must end and you must wake, quick,
before the man-snake who is the estranged
self dies. He’ll have to come back
for another take some night. Maybe
he’ll get to shoot first, or check his gun
with the grizzled bartender. Will one of you
ever offer a hand to the other?
There’s something unthinkable still
to discuss, over a drink perhaps.
Yes, it’s a risk, but look,
you were the killer this time.