Wesley Rothman: “The Sleepers”


The Sleepers

Forbidden combinations of syllables

Hijack the mouth    the throat    shoulders

The delegating mind    If the word is taboo

Understood or otherwise    a body says it

Most abundantly    I did not know

The anatomy of it    It was my anatomy

Its throat & throttle    spit & ignorance


All sleeping in my skin    Children have a knack

For viciousness    even old children

We were 16    maybe I was 17    We howled

Until our lungs collapsed    We tired

Lobbing the word like a football

With no referee    no knowing

We were rigging the game    Which is absurd


To keep up with that metaphor    life

A game    We snarled & huffed & barked

& growled & cackled our language test    We

Absorb words    follow some leads as we

Learn to interpret this world    They are given

We accept them    We assign them

In the mind    So the seeing matches


A word gifted to us    & the word

Offered teaches us what we see

See    think    word    think    see    We saw

The word we touted across the house

Pummeling each other into the couch

We saw the word in the spit flying

We were grateful    unbridled no one


Victim of the word was around    No

One we saw    & so thought    & so

Worded as victim    anyway    The word

Woke us into sleep    Further into sleep

The word was a sleeping pill    a trigger

Of blanks    What we saw    & so thought    & so

I am now wording as blanks    Repeated    though


It was a series of rogue shots into the night

That would peak and scream back

Into someone’s living room    someone’s

Unsuspecting shoulder    The word would wound

Would maim    assassinate while we slept

From birth we were groomed for this

Undercover objective    No one knew


They were training us    There never was

A coded cue    They did not want us woke

They wanted us awake in our sleep    wanted

A spot on our lungs    souring the air

That makes the word into a body of force

A war we worded    & so thought    & saw

Phantom & bodily    revised though printed

In the book of everlasting

Wesley Rothman‘s debut collection,¬†SUBWOOFER, will be published by New Issues Poetry and Prose in fall 2017. His work has appeared in¬†Copper Nickel, Gulf Coast,¬†Harvard Review,¬†New England Review,¬†Prairie Schooner,¬†and¬†The Golden Shovel Anthology, among other venues. Recipient of a¬†Vermont Studio Center fellowship, he teaches in Washington, DC, while pursuing a doctorate in literature.