Back to Issue Nine.

Belle Dame Sans



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.

Camille Guillot is a rising senior English major with a Creative Writing concentration at Hendrix College. She is an intern at The Oxford American, has four poems in this year’s Hendrix Aonian, and has received second place for poetry in the Hendrix-Murphy Contest. She has an upcoming publication in The Frisky.