I dream in quiet catastrophes, under a quilt sewn with the tears my grandmother collected when her body became a feast. In each of her five pregnancies, crows cawed every night, dusk to dawn, one more for each passing hour, for each time her babies kicked, made her wince. Cry. Bleed. She could not sleep, so she collected worms under her pillow and, with brittle talons, fed them. Soon, she became them. It was the break of the century. The sky split. Ohio was drowned by floods of ash. Lake Erie had dried to bone, so our landlocked state had no way out but to sink. Sink into the muck beneath like a ship. Like a suicide. Like the teardrops of every sailor lost at sea, screaming for their wives, for their brothers, for every crowing ancestor to rescue their broken dignity. Dignity, impossibly frail like the geometry of a spiderweb. At the end of her life, my grandmother, in her preserved state of fragmented consciousness—so ready to go—possessed more of it than any man I’ve known, allegedly whole or otherwise. We gathered to send her off, to inhale her dying breaths. I watched her carotid thump with quiet desperation beneath her gossamer skin; kissed the soft wisps of angel hair atop her forehead; wept, jagged and splintered, for all the Christmas carols we would eventually sing without her. The quiet catastrophes of a sleepless dream, smothered by another night wherein I cannot close my eyes.
Jeffrey Haskey-Valerius is a writer and poet in the Midwestern US. His work has been anthologized and appears in or is forthcoming from Rust + Moth, Chiron Review, Northern New England Review, Apricity Press, and elsewhere. He tweets @jeffreyvalerius and is online at jeffreyhaskey-valerius.com