Bedtime Story by Mark DeCarteret

for Richard Barnes


We fell asleep with the laws of the jungle and were woken up to the ones of the walled-in, declawed.

We fell asleep superstars and were woken up step-children, pets—these cramped and tepid acts they kept imagining they’d pat sparks from.

We fell asleep roaming our great grandparent’s landmass—their mountains and moors, and were woken up in a room where we’re part artifact and part fun fact, categorically trapped with their janitor’s carts and remotes, their hand sanitizers and charts.

We fell asleep in the lap of a hundred pasts and were woken up where even the trees had to put up with this Tupperware air, these unsettling suns.

We fell asleep with the most unsightly of holes and were woken up sewn-tight, something woefully new, our stomachs eternally sated, long-forgetting the taste of the leaf, how it feels on the tongue.

We fell asleep roofless, nearly gaining on angels, and were woken up slain again, ironed-out into angles, then nailed to the floor.

We fell asleep eaten and were woken up dined-on and nibbled, billed high in undesirable fat.

We fell asleep known-to-ourselves and well-practiced in blood and were woken as our doubles–these memories clouding up, pelts.

We fell asleep likened to poetry—leap-taking and skilled, and were woken up clichés they peeled back from this plastic, stuck-pinned and then saw-to again and again until flawless.

We fell asleep testy and thrashing and were woken up yet-at-peace and expertly voiced-over.

We fell asleep a-sea or unspooling into night and were woken to tape-loops, tuned into more soft rock, the automaton’s set list.

We fell asleep these shit-covered heaps and were woken up as lab-coats, text-speaking to ourselves.

We fell asleep in the shadows of a few doped-up, un-worshipped gods and were woken up drop-lit, prodded into the poses of show dogs.

We fell asleep not conversant with in-ground pools, gates, and visual aids and were woken up in stages, then staple-gunned and tagged.

We fell asleep mumbling, bum-legged and dented-up, and were woken up merely legends.




Mark DeCarteret’s work has appeared in the anthologies American Poetry: The Next Generation (Carnegie Mellon Press), Place of Passage: Contemporary Catholic Poetry (Story Line Press),Thus Spake the Corpse: An Exquisite Corpse Reader (Black Sparrow Press) and Under the Legislature of Stars—62 New Hampshire Poets (Oyster River Press) which he also co-edited From 2009-2011, he was the Poet Laureate of Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  You can check out his Postcard Project at     

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