The sleep-sipping ghosts flower above my bed: rotten dreams, stranded ore of nightmare; they smell of soured windfalls and standing water ice-crazed. Out of the wallpaper where it crackles from the plaster, the floorboards where the dust chills, they seep their own camphor level. Their dry ice dissolves on my tongue. Over the treeline, the parchment-brown skeletons flirt and curvet, swallow-sleek, autumn blue split between their bones—seals and mosasaurs, baleen whales, sea-things all, vanishing into the air. I jackknife into waking, throat rasped raw from running nowhere. The moon is a mouse’s whisk at my pulse. A bramble of shadow where a shadow hand eases between thorns in silhouette is actinic with blossom, more caustic petals than the pricking canes, the scab-stitched knuckles scarring with light. The heels of my hands cannot scrub my eyes to sleep. A moth-dust comes away on my thumb, but it tastes like torn lily roots, siltpond entrails. I shift over, I count my hammering sighs, each breath grinding out stillborn—flayed inside pelt-spikes of corn, the rider screams among the burning boughs. My mouth, my eyes. The whitely whisper of ghosts. Unwaking, I fall through the shed skins of dream. My eyes have never closed.
Sonya Taaffe has a confirmed addiction to myth, folklore, and dead languages. Poems and short stories of hers have been reprinted in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, The Alchemy of Stars: Rhysling Award Winners Showcase, The Best of Not One of Us, Fantasy: The Best of the Year 2006, and Best New Romantic Fantasy 2. A respectable amount of her work can be found in Postcards from the Province of Hyphens and Singing Innocence and Experience (Prime Books). She holds master’s degrees in Classics from Brandeis and Yale.
Image: Snow White, Walter Crane (1882)