In Which I Gather up Horrors for the Hero

He’s asleep in my sheets,
my bleach-white sails
that jettison seas in the songs
 
as close to us as blood: how
the old cyclops was blinded,
how men can risk hell, hazard
 
halls of the dead for snarls
of rank gold hair, decimate
armies with ham-fisted ease.
 
I am lighting a cigarette at
the window now. I am thinking
of stories I haven’t told him:
 
how we give our champions
new names in our heads,
how they only hold
 
our attention in states
of emergency. Three true
things I can say about heroes
 
at rest: they are dull, dull,
dull. Sometimes he shifts
in blankets, pinches his brow
 
as if he can feel my rattlesnake
stare. Look at his beautiful
stomach, balloon of the lungs,
 
its metronome dead-lifts,
sudden deflation. My hero:
a ship licked by crests
 
on the wine-dark sea.
I don’t know why I lean over
him some nights and speak
 
poison, pour wicked baddies
into his ear, villains to hate
and to hurt. I don’t know
 
why I can only tell the truth
when he’s asleep, when I
can look at his face and see,
 
finally, something frail
and breakable, a paper
boat adrift on savage seas.

 
 
 

Robert Campbell is a poet living in Lexington, Kentucky. His work has appeared in River Styx, Zone 3, Ninth Letter, and elsewhere. A Pushcart Prize nominee, Robert holds an MS in Library Science from the University of Kentucky and is currently an MFA candidate at Murray State University. He serves as Reference & Instruction Librarian at Transylvania University and Reviews Editor at DIALOGIST.