Tag Archives: Cincinnati Review

BRIAN CLIFTON.September 2018


BRIAN CLIFTON

Photo by Jeff Sirkin


 

from THE INTROVERT’S GUIDE TO DREAMS

In the gutted strip mall, you know everything is dead and nothing is rotting. A storm gathers like a jungle cat pacing just outside the firelight. The aluminum roof peels back, and the storm grows. You hear the rain, but you are not wet. You climb the wreckage. When you smile, it is as if your face has broken open with lightning.

 

*

Outside, the rain blots out the scenery. Your world becomes what’s nearest to you. Your world pushes its snout close to your face and yawns. You see its gnarled teeth. The world falls back asleep in your bent arms.

 

*

You are very large and your lumbering very destructive, so the city has decided to chain you to a wall in the natural history museum. There, people gasp at your large thighs, how grotesque an eye is when enlarged. Gone are the days, when, unnoticed, you poured your purse into the street.

 

 

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*** ** ***

 

SOMEONE ELSE’S BABY

I carried

a bag of groceries

up the stairs

when the baby

peeked out.

He opened

his mouth,

and I could

see teeth

working through

gums,

a tongue

running over

their tiny

crenulations.

My wife

was so happy

I didn’t

forget

the baby

she told me

something

very important—

about checking

receipts

so you know

what is yours.

 

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*** ** ***

 

SHADOW PUPPET

A single thread of blood

coiled around my body.

I twisted my fingers

into the shapes

I could make: rock, bird, canine.

(Dare I say wolf?

Pinscher? No, no, no.)

Outside, the rain furred the world

with tiny ephemerae.

Inside my mind, all my lovers

hold their hands on my chest

as if I were already a shade.

I did not want my body

to turn, but it did. It does.

 

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*** ** ***

 

from THE INTROVERT’S GUIDE TO DREAMS

In the bathroom, you brush your teeth. The bristles sound like radio static. Your mouth fills with froth. When you spit, it is black and viscous. You step back and wait for it to slide down the drain. After it has gone, you hear it chant, I love you, from the plumbing.

 

*

You run down the hallway of your home. The windows are broken. Electricity flickers from a single bulb. You see the closed door at the end of the hallway. The roof has collapsed, so snow falls in. The light flickers; the door is open. Moist heat seeps out.

 

*

You scurry in the space between walls. It is uncomfortable, but you can’t find a way out. When you stop moving, you hear a chorus of children on the other side singing a name you desperately want to recognize.

 

 

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*** ** ***

 

FIVE ALREADY

Again,

the dream

of water

spilling

from cup

to emptied

cup. Emptied

again,

the cup

in the dream

spills

water,

and water

inside me empties

out. I spill

again

through this dream;

my body a cup.

I cup

water

in my dream.

I empty

myself again.

What spills

spills

from the cup

again—

water’s

empty

dream.

My dream

spills

emptied

cups

like water;

again

I’m dreaming. A cup

spills water

until empty again.

 

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*** ** ***

 

APOCALYPSE WITH MORNING

I sang the name with my leaking

mouth. Yitgadal v’yitkadash…

From the faucet, forgetfulness. The ambulance

in the chest galloped through

the body’s maelstrom. I was there,

and I was not

the skull’s blank page. In the sink, the many liquid moons

gathered to splash the morning’s face

as if this were a dream before a shave.

 

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*** ** ***

 

CAN OPENER

I twist

the can

opener.

The can,

toothless,

turns a smile.

I smile

as I twist

the toothless

can

in the can

opener’s

opening

smile.

I can

twist.

I can

shout. If toothless,

I turn toothless

to the opened

can,

a smile

twisting

my face around. A can

can

turn toothless

in its twist,

opening

a smile.

A can

can

fit another can

in its smile.

A toothless

opener

twists

and twists a can,

never opening it. I can

turn a toothless wound to a simile.

 

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BRIAN CLIFTON


Brian CliftonBrian Clifton
co-edits Bear Review. He is a PhD. student at the University of North Texas. His work can be found in: Pleiades, Guernica, Cincinnati Review, Salt Hill, Prairie Schooner, The Journal, Beloit Poetry Journal, and other magazines. He is an avid record collector and curator of curiosities.

 

To download a printable PDF version of this page, click here.

 

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September 2018.BRIAN CLIFTON