Thrice this dreary winter I’ve dreamed the bogus death
I died in Africa, not its buff savanna or undulating sands
but where the vertical panorama of cumulonimbus
is self-contained, where thunder claps call out
on their own, downpours taking up the theme.
Was it soma or coma? Hepatitis on the Pepper Coast
let my liver have the say.
Quarantined, stunned with soporifics,
pinned against a sallow tumescent sky,
I felt the whole treacherous tropics gouge
into my guts, leaving me brittle bones from brow
to ribs to toes with shriveled pulp for viscera,
flaccid shrunken testes. My sap was hot with bile,
my shit pale clay, piss shit brown. Was I then to die?
Was this my unction, from a friendly mantis tacit prayer,
for incense the stench of coffee blossoms in fetid air?
A rooster crowed, a dog barked at a stooped
and wizened, demented old man. Myself, I saw.
Then all gravity cut loose. My bed became a bier
in surging currents, dipping down past pallid
shores whence no one I remotely knew beckoned.
Limbo? Purgatorio? Inferno? Whom are we supposed
to meet there, anyway? Fathers whose afflictions
we grow to share; lovers transmogrifying in dream;
lumpen bums lurching at us to beg change, faces
chafed and skinned like the hindquarters of small
game, rubby veins blasted to the surface?
We each live out our own protracted crise de foie.
We call it the liver because this gland strives against
death’s relentless inward seepage. Mine did, and won.