An incubus perches on my chest
in the house my father built.
I am not Fuseli’s woman.
I am a caterpillar in pupa
woven in to cotton sheets.
I dream by osmosis,
a continuous sepia reel:
I am a small boy running
with hands coated in shades of clay.
A dark horse laps its tongue on my shoulder,
drops something inside my palms,
asks me whose house this is.
His mane grazes
my clenched fingers.
He nuzzles my chin.
Open your hands, he puffs.
I never do.
The sun uncovers my cocoon.
Every morning shredded
skin like the Mississippi neck to wrist.
I blame him.
My father paints me a shadow
to frighten my own.
I want to dream my skin is baked earth,
shriveled to forgotten dirt.
My horse soaks through me.
Rivers dry and flood.
This is my house
and these are my dark hands.
My mother smothered the cracks in plush plaster
and snipped off
the air with one crook of key,
sealed an elf in our upstairs loft.
After dinner, the elf snuck down
and gorged our garbage.
Tricky, mother said.
We turned up the volume on the T.V.
to mute the whisper, the bewitching
purr that swept through the walls
and into our beds
Sometimes I forgot we were vexed,
sheltered what we could not find.
Sometimes I dreamed our elf was my child
I tucked deep inside
my shirt pocket. My elf,
my pocket baby, who called me Mother,
grew from the gap in my fabric, grew
and swelled out into the air.
Mother said we must purge our house
so we could breathe.
We dug a hole in the front yard
the air out and push into the dirt
what we could not see.