Slumber

by Mitchell Grabois

The dead use fire to make their wishes known. They use icicles and snow drifts. They employ wildfires that burn thousands of acres. Avalanches. They might as well be mute, so poorly understood are they. Even the poets among them lack eloquence. Their mouths are sewn shut, the open mics are closed.

The painters among them can only paint with their Mounds of Venus. The whores paint with their mounds, the gluttons with Peter Paul Mounds, the alcoholics with vinegar. We don’t hear them because we’re not truly listening, even those of us with ouiji boards in our hands, dice, shrunken heads, chicken feet.

When all else fails, the dead use war, a clumsy means of communication. When they are frustrated with using war, they try peace, though rarely. Peace is too quiet. We never hear the messages in peace.

It’s the middle of the night and I’m painting. I am trying my hardest to interpret the messages of the dead in blue and burnt ochre and vermillion. I live alone. My apartment is a mess of paint. I’m so glad my landlord never inspects. He’s an alcoholic and has other things to do.

Sometimes I act as his enforcer. When other tenants don’t pay their rent, I threaten them with violence. They think I’m crazy and capable of violence, so they pay up.

I’m not crazy, not capable of violence, not capable of sleep either. There’s no barrier between me and my subconscious, inhabited by so many snippets of life, by so many of the dead, they are endless.

I need to stop living, to stop the snippets and the insistent messages of the deceased, but I don’t really want to stop living.

There’s no barrier between my brushes and creativity. There’s only a barrier between me and slumber.

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