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The Patient


The doctors know I dream when I'm awake.

I've smoked until my fingertips are brown.

Watching the door, I sit alone and shake.


My sister and her kids, Kelly and Jake,

Played games with me when I'd sink this far down

Until they knew I dream when I'm awake.


When Beth comes now, her smile is bright and fake.

She doesn't want to bring the kids downtown.

She leaves too soon. I sit alone and shake.


The voice is back. It whispers till I ache.

I'm soaked in sweat and tangled in my gown

When they catch me dreaming while still awake.


They've brought more pills that they must watch me take.

They're lifeguards staring at me as I drown.

They leave again. I sit alone and shake.


I'm stuck in a glass bubble I can't break.

The others stand outside and watch the clown.

I wish I didn't dream when I'm awake.

The room grows dark. I sit alone and shake.


Jeff Holt



2000; originally printed in The Cumberland Poetry Review.
Reprinted by permission of the author.

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