by David Glenn Cox
My November dreams have become restless nightmares now, as I toss and
turn unable to find rest. Night figures haunt me, walking alone and in
groups alone in the shadows, yet even through the darkness I can see
their faces. Pale and gaunt, tight with anxiety, thin with hunger,
steel eyes looking nowhere and everywhere. Looking back over their
shoulders towards the future, like looking for yesterday to find
tomorrow as they walk away slowly into the distance.
they seek me out? Why do they haunt me so? Is it because I am also
them? I am one of them with my membership card in my hand, with my
dirty shoes and ragged clothes as proof true. Are these specters me? Do
I run loose in my mind or does my mind run loose in my head? Am I
haunting myself? Have the sinews and synapses allowed my brain to break
free like a ship’s cargo in a storm?
They cohabitate with me
when my eyes close to sleep. I hear their voices; I hear their labored
steps. I hear their children until I wake in a sweating, frozen terror
and I wish to scream for them to be gone from me! But it is no use,
because I can’t. They are the strangers who know me and the ghosts who
are me and I carry their chains as penance for my crimes like Marley.
watch their numbers grow, as I watch the world spit on them and cuss
them and excoriate them and fit them for their crown of thorns. The
populace put forth a shallow, false bravado to hide the fear, the fear
of being next, of walking alone, of being spit upon, of being hated by
the world. The fear of the hundredth job application for a job you’re
overqualified for but under-qualified for because you’re too old or too
young or too female or too male, but most of all you’re under-qualified
because you want to get paid for your work.
They hold me down in
my sleep; they grab my hands and seize me as I struggle to break free,
and as I do sparks fly around the room from the light sockets. I cannot
sing, I can only scream, not beautiful music but the sounds that need
to be heard just the same. So don’t fault me if my words hurt your ears
for I am not singing to you. I’m sending you a message from the other
The charlatans who strut the days in matinees of palisades
and serpentine splendor that remains to remind us that all the world is
a stage, but the play is all of fiction. Their names may change as fast
as the facts, but never forget they run in packs, and sleep better
knowing that their money’s safely in the banks. So don’t try to phone,
don’t try to call, don’t you ring the doorbell and wait on the lawn,
for they don’t know you.
They have names for you, of course, and
programs for you and forms to fill out and waiting periods and
calculations. Stratagems and economic theories and black-tie dinner
parties over food you’ve never tasted and wine you’ve never drank,
followed by dessert and champagne to celebrate their escape from the
life you must daily lead. Slowly it begins to come to me why these
ghosts disturb my rest; it is because I hear them and they do not. I
feel them and they do not. I am one of them and they are not.
do not rest with bloated belly filled with fine food and wine, but with
hot dogs and maybe a beer and I’m glad to get it. Oh, I get it all
right, like a lover spurned, I get it. We are unneeded by you now! This
assembled multitude should disperse now into the night to tread the
footpaths of the night people, the street people, the homeless people
to be summoned up when the trumpet sounds again and the polls open.
will call them out; I will call them out of their temples even if the
star catchers and cultists object. Holy rollers steeped in party and
baptized with the holy water of political furor. It’s not heads I win,
tails you lose. We all lose. You play the game, but they run they game.
When your man calls six they all chant, yes, six hooray! When their man
calls six they cuss and yell, oh no, not six! So excuse me while I
laugh because it’s all the same play, for penny-stinkers and kings!
no, they cry out from the temple pews, you’ve just got to believe!
You’ve just got to! Otherwise Tinkerbell will be lost to us. Come on
now, you’ve got to have hope! With hope we can do anything, so come on,
join us, lets all hope real hard for Tinkerbell. You see? I think it’s
working. I see a light shining. Sure, that’s it; everyone hope real
Yes, I see the light, too, but I see it in the dark, for
in the dark there is a clarity. A clarity not given to those who live
in the light. A thousand points of light are surrounded by a million
points of darkness, and those of us with concrete for beds, we know
this unquestioningly. Hope is a four letter word, but so is help and so
is food; hope is what you hold onto when there is no help or food. Like
fairy sprites, it is all a make-believe game.
But our night is
as real as is their day. Hope is not a plan, hope is a way to dodge the
blame and for them to say heretic! You’re disloyal, go away! You don’t
believe when I would upend, but ’tis for you to unrecommend. For that
will change naught, and it will change nigh, because I will condemn all
those who lie. For to silence me won’t silence the others, as they,
too, will begin to haunt you under the covers. At night time close in
safe repose, you’ll see their shadows, you’ll wear their clothes and
you will know what they know.
Reality is stone and fantasy
whipped cream, and no, this is real and not a dream. The night men grow
and their numbers swell, and without saving us there is no saving
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.