The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2022

All Issues
SEPT 2022 Issue


How to Sleep Without Worry

You are bewildered.
Did you think you heard
the growling of angels?
You think you know them — —
plumed eyes, shapes like arrows,
like ampules of ink. You feel them
in the room grown holy,
think you can compel them
to grant your ONE BIG WISH,
but you will have other wishes waiting.
Take your angels and go on up — —
I’ll live here among the weeds
with what I’ve already got,
find it’s the same as having
the splendor of heaven.
I’ll perform simple acts
with mythic importance — —
the washing of hands,
the flicking of a light switch.
Every speck of dirt
is the same as an angel.
We can see the beginning of Time
through a telescope.
Does that make it easier
to sleep without worry?
I don’t sleep — — I crack
ideas like nuts, do three things at once
inside the folds. Culpeper writes
of how a scorpion grew
in the brain of a man who smelled basil.
I’m done with cowards. I’m growing everything,
hatching everything from the eggs
of my thoughts — — things that sting,
things that glide and creep and swim.
I will open my mouth and they
will crawl out, wriggle out.
The dawn enters me, opens
the top of my shell so light
can get in, so that I might praise
the intricate enveloping nature of all things,
the well-packed geometry of a seed — —
it contains all, disperses all.

We think therefore we are.

Blood in the head.

Theory of Mind.

Find what you can live without
and do it now — — as an exercise.

Find a power greater than pain,
then marry yourself to the earth.

How to Wear a Crown of Bones

Carry me across the valley of unknowing until I know

saddled on the back of Time

A moth at the window is trying to get out

It wakes me up—tic tic—a grandfather clock

    The Past leaves its carcass to feed us all in times of scarcity

    but gnawing teeth change the nature of the bones

Carry me across the valley of unknowing until I know

    The taste of a bruise will travel through the whole apple

    Cut it off early, cut it off

My hair is growing again

A spider makes its way across the rug

    Watch it crawl, then take the spider outside, gently

    Keep buying dresses for the day that will come—

    Keep them on the rack— a line of boneless selves

To mark time, the moth dries out on the windowsill,

accumulating dust while losing its own

Carry me across the valley of unknowing until I know

    Go on for a long time, as long as it takes

    Take the cleaned bones of your memories

    and form them into a crown

Carry me across the valley of unknowing until I know

    The knife you ordered is on the way

    Learn to part the glass

    let things out     let things in

    Take the crown of bones and place it on your head

    Tiptoe through the rooms

    so you don’t wake yourself up

The knife etched with tulips eats the air

I know what

I know without thinking it


close my teeth around the words.

I hover       I cover

I cower       I crave    I part the air,

carve out a landscape, enter it, and seal it

Where there is silence, I wait

I wait     underneath it    until I bend to the weight—

I am like snow, slow in response—

I bend       I bend

I break         I cave

I am          I am not

Then I focus     I pave


Coleman Stevenson

Coleman Stevenson is the author of three poetry collections (Light Sleeper, Breakfast, and The Accidental Rarefication of Pattern #5609), several books about the Tarot including The Dark Exact Tarot Guide, and a book of essays on creativity accompanying the card game Metaphysik. Her writing has appeared in a variety of literary journals and the anthologies. In addition to her work as a designer of tarot and oracle decks through her company The Dark Exact, her fine art work, exhibited in galleries around the US, focuses on the intersections between image and text. Learn more at


The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2022

All Issues