Don’t be fooled by the title; this is not a Christmas poem. Jim Elledge channels John Berryman in this unsettling persona piece.
He Sees You When You’re Sleeping
I is a lunatic, locked up in a padded cell. Watch close: I
bounces off walls, I drools, I plays with himself in front of
others and locks eyes with the prettiest of them. His Come
on, come on meets their gaping mouths with a leer.
I is no saint embossed on a holy card, standing on a cloud,
eyes turned heavenward, hands clasped together,
prayerfully. I is no demon, but a daredevil.
Only an audience full of ooohs and aaahs can create a
saint: applause-applause balcony to orchestra pit as flames
engulf the stake, as the head’s lopped off, as the skin’s
peeled away, the eyes plucked out, the spikes hammered
Pssssst. Listen: I fucked O one Thanksgiving night. O
squealed. I grunted. At most, a few seconds was all it took.
Then they flip-flopped: I / O / I.
I was no saint. Here’s his story….
Once upon a time, a man held I down behind closed doors
and did him. I held his breath. I never made a sound. I
thought he bled. I checked later and found he hadn’t. I
forgot every second of it. I forgot it over and over, year
after year. Amnesia was I’s Hail-Mary. I has no childhood.
It went up in smoke, straight to God’s nostrils, who
mumbled, It is good, through his Santa Claus beard.
Today, an orderly brings I to the day room. The phone on
the wall squawks like a drunken parrot. I gets to it first. A
tinny voice says, “Fuck I—and the lonesome cowboys he
road into town on” and hangs up before I can say a word.
Read more of Jim Elledge’s poetry.
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Photo by Dennis Skley/Flickr