Belle Dame Sans
BY CAMILLE GUILLOT
Poetry held me awake till five
the night before my mother’s brain
surgery: rattling the drainpipes
of our hotel near the hospital,
knocking on the windows.
Succubus. I let her in. She pressed
into my hands my notebook.
I’d give in to her, write a stanza,
then dim the lamps; she’d coax
them back on. We grappled for hours
to whimpers next door. “Don’t wake her,”
I whispered. “Don’t wake my mother.”
She laughed at my carefulness, rubbed
my cramped hands. An hour later, I
had a poem lying in my lap. Soon
my mother’s skull would be open.
Poetry pulled her brain-damp fingers from mine.
I turned off the lamp and she climbed
out the window for another rendez-vous.
Two hours till the surgery: I woke haggard.
The afterimage etched into my eyes:
was it from the lamp, or her bright skin?
I snapped at the surgeon.
Some cried in the waiting room;
my hands itched to revise. I forgot
the drill buzzing at my mother’s temples.
Crumpled in my suitcase was a poem.