by: Veronica Noechel

The night terrors are bulls running beneath a sagging balcony
held together by paint chips and dead termites.
I huddle, balled up against the chipping brick, squealing
with the strained hinges at the throttle of hooves. But then you,
delicious as summer raspberries, indolent as a sun drunk tiger,
lean against the crumbling railing, all your bones
adjusting effortlessly to the sway like a fox trot. Deadly nimble, you smoke cigarettes
with strange and stale grandfather names like Winston, Chesterfield,
and the confidence of a film star before cancer came along.
Through the slats, cattle run in a braided rope of bodies,
a tight and desperate line of muscle and sweat, hooves compacting the sand,
grinding scattered syringes and bloodied cotton balls into shards
and a frothy tan soup of scat. I’m too scared to grab onto your
calm extended hand or your belief that my bulls are imaginary
as candy petaled roses, and nothing I can say
will draw you away from that edge, toward safety. So we stand
unmoving, trapped frozen in the glass bubble of a protracted minute
despite stampeding time. We share
a cooperative paralysis, each wishing we could hold the other
down, to protect them from their vaporous and dangerous delusions
as concrete and preposterous as imaginary bulls.