“Tenderness” by Mary Paulsen

Through the eye of a dream,
the round pit of a binocular opening,
I recognize myself
standing in front of a stranger,
his gun barrel pressed
against the bone between my breasts.


We’re in a dark tunneled room scattered with souls.


There are multitudes of rooms
here. Narrow corridors
blinking sickly green
fluorescent light
connect them.
Faded voices, glasses clinking,
bursts of laughter, sounds
of merriment travel across decades,
land next door.


In our room, the television
blares static
through the tunnels, up
into the streets
and across the neighborhood.
Framed against the blue
TV light, the stranger and I appear
as shadows, cut-out
comic book figurines set
against twilight.


I’ve been shot before,
in other dreams. I’ve
stumbled through dark auditoriums
calling for help. I’ve
fallen out of windows and been
thrown off cliffs. I’ve
felt the horror
of suffocation in my sleep.


I’ve been drowned in marble pools.
Well-dressed guests
drinking cocktails, glanced
absently as my mother,
lovely and dressed all in white,
held my head
firmly below the blue surface.


The armed stranger
raises his gun, readies himself
to pop the trigger, then
hesitates. A light sheen of perspiration
paints his face. My heart
yearns for him, hurts for him.
It’s OK, I tell him, I’m already dead


Mary Paulson currently lives and works in Naples, FL. Her poems have appeared in Slow Trains, Mainstreet Rag, Painted Bride Quarterly, Nerve Cowboy, Arkana, Thimble Lit Magazine, and Tipton Poetry Journal. Her chapbook, Paint the Window Open, has recently been accepted for publication by Kelsay Publishing.

Photo by Max Kleinen on Unsplash

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