by Annie Neugebauer
Tonight I dreamed
my mouth was zippered shut,
like some macabre doctor
had taken the school teacher’s gesture
and replaced each lip with one half a zipper.
Like any fresh surgery,
the flesh ached and burned,
far too tender for me to even think
of touching it with the gentlest fingertips,
much less grasping the metal pull
and opening the angry little teeth.
I wandered down a street I knew well
surrounded by strangers who my dream told me
I knew well as well
and every one of them
sealed at the mouth:
a line like melted wax,
sutures stitched across like a rag doll,
a single, large button pulled up over the top lip,
the particularly vicious stretch of super glue,
and, most terrifying of all, a perfect, smooth melding of bottom to top lip
no line or seal remaining where mouth used to be,
only a vague bump out of the teeth beneath the flesh,
I was desperate to tell them something.
Wild with the need.
I don’t know what it was.
I don’t know if I even knew, then, in the dream.
I know only that I raced from person to person
forcing myself into their paths
again and again—oh, sleeping eternity—
The words piled up against the inside of my zipper,
stacked up on my tongue,
brushed the roof of my mouth
and down my clenched throat,
tears stinging my fresh wounds,
Never has there been a dream
with such a perfect lack of sound.
When I awoke,
I did not speak.
I picked up the notebook
I keep by my bed
and I began to write,
the scratching of my pen
against this page
pulling and clicking
like the long, metallic freeing
of a zipper.