To Write
by Annie Neugebauer

 

Tonight I dreamed

my mouth was zippered shut,

like some macabre doctor

had taken the school teacher’s gesture

quite literally    

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 zipper,

      a line like melted wax,

      sutures stitched across like a rag doll,

      a single, large button pulled up over the top lip,

      staples,

      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,

              caged.

 

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

and trying

again and again—oh, sleeping eternity—

to speak.

 

Silence.

 

The words piled up against the inside of my zipper,

stacked up on my tongue,

brushed the roof of my mouth

and gullet

and down my clenched throat,

choking,

tears stinging my fresh wounds,

and still,

still …

 

Never has there been a dream

with such a perfect lack of sound.

 

When I awoke,

reader,

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.

 

Do Not Go Quietly edited by Jason Sizemore and Lesley Conner is available now!