Dictators at Night

Winter, 2020–21 / No. 46

Abbreviated lions, on their sides long hours,

dreaming of a passing, rusty birdcage or

severe fathers and screaming schoolmates. 

Did Hitler sleep well in clean sheets, white 

as the Russian winter, pulled taut by anxious, 

loving maids long since scuttled away? 

On D-Day he slept till noon and Panzer tanks

that needed his personal orders sat still.

To live is to see a slowly assembling ghost

town of the mind: all you can’t have back.

Perhaps Hitler’s younger brother, dead

of measles morphed from resting boy to hill

as Hitler ran up, in his dreams, endlessly.

But what poor little damn fool can only

look outward, seek to reshape the landscape?

Maybe dictators dreamed of the dinosaurs near

enough to a sudden, key event: turning to look 

at a coming, eclipsing cloud of scalding steam 

and debris. Not understanding, but certainly, 

it’s the natural thing to do, to turn and look. 

In my dream I’m deep in a chair with a book 

and a tall man approaches with a gun. I say 

one word: wait. And he doesn’t. Good night.