Bruce Cohen The Developing Room of Unreliable Sleepers

In these eerie nineteenth century tintypes of the insane,
Wispy ghosts superimpose, or float beside, the faces of the most disturbed.

_Today’s one of those crazy winter weather days when life-drunk boys
Dress in cutoffs & t-shirts while the sensible-sane zip up in down jackets

& ears covered woolen caps. There are voices & sounds one never wishes to hear.
______Is this why Van Gogh lopped off his ear? In that century, artists
____________Spooned & stirred extra sugar cubes in the emerald absinthe
____________________Over blue flames.

_______Each night, disinterest multiplied & failed importantly
To measure & monitor the amount of symbolic arsenic injected into bloodstreams,
________________(Just enough for pleasant hallucinations)
________Like the cottony strychnine in the green apple cacti of fresh peyote.

Very few positive people admit when their lucky number is a negative number—

________________________Or zero,

____________Or try to kiss the overexposed dark air for loveliness,

________________________The filmy distinction between a life & a life lived.

For some reason, the insane love it when
__________________________They can see through the page they are reading
______& get a peek at those transparent
____________________Unreadable backwards words on the next page,

____________________This strange overlap, like conspirators, seeing the future,
Like unreliable sleepers whispering over one another after the lights are off,

_____________Waiting to overexpose some secret, mummifying behind musty curtains,
Cannonballed knees
_________________Under sweaty bed sheets.

Because it’s unseasonably warm the life-inebriated boys picnic in snow to impress the girls
_________At the abandoned sanitarium—wind-frayed curtains only partially
Covering the BB shot-out windows. In some rooms, windows no

_________Longer exist, have not for decades. Or doors. Hinges only. Or doors unhinged.
___________________The unhinged.
____________It seems someone is appearing then disappearing or vice versa.
According to the ghosts

__________It’s the emptiness between walls
_______That give walls purpose, though walls, in general, are not necessary to hang family photos.

______Patients were prescribed heliotherapy treatment—fresh air & sunlight—
_________________________But denied both. Locked in,

Like the multiple people inside us, illogically dressed, overexposed

______________________________To weather, both internal_____
______& external, like being shocked by emerging faces one didn’t see

In the original photos
In the dark room while pouring harsh chemicals over the committed

_______________Rectangular negatives of people who once or never existed.


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