Dead loved ones visit my wife's dreams to calm her.Bad jokes inhabit mine. For example,You know why I'm not clinically depressed?I've never been to a clinic. Dumb, of course.But true. Without insurance, we can't afford it.This is what I do instead: on nightsI wake from scenes of mortifying punch lines,I sneak down to my office in the basement,passing the bathroom, kitchen, and the guest room,(which would've been our daughter's room by now),and, sitting at the plywood desk belowthe garden—seeded and drooping black-eyed Susanspeering through the smudged and narrow window—I put on Spotify until I finda song I think I'll like but haven't heardbefore. I listen to it on repeatfor an hour at least, though usually far longer,until I've memorized the lyrics, andthe rhythms they arrive in, and the notesassigned to them, measure after measure.Often I softly sing along. It's soothing,to concentrate and sing so long my jawbegins to ache the way it used to whenas an anxious kid, I'd chew big wads of gumuntil all flavor and all hue but graywas drained, and that bite-riddled mass spit out.In elementary school I was the firstto learn my times tables by heart. This seemssimilar, an accomplishment of sorts,which feels great for a while but soon wears off.The peace it brings me—if that's what it is—diminishes more quickly these past nights,like a pain pill I've depended on too much,to which my body has become immune. [End Page 267]
PETER VERTACNIK's poems and translations have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Alabama Literary Review, The American Journal of Poetry, The Asses of Parnassus, Green Briar Review, Literary Matters, Poet Lore, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and Writing Texas, among others.