Nightmares in Formaldehyde

I’m sitting in the middle of my biology classroom,
but not my biology classroom.

The green chalkboard stretches from wall to wall and
the lighting is dim.

Although the class is full, it is silent.
Like a muted film.

The rows of desks roll like the sea
the zenith of which is mine
and where the brightest of the phosphate glow falls.

I am ill-prepared and my professor is staring,
waiting for my inevitable admission of
my forgetfulness and ignorance.

The next day at my school,
but not my school
I have forgotten my locker combination.

I know I am nightmaring and whatever numbers
are familiar will work…even half numbers…
even when the notched line is nowhere near
the intended stop.  It opens.  It is not my locker.

I cannot remember what class I have next
or if I have attended anytime in the last two weeks.
There is an exam in my biology class but
I have not attended in so long.
I cannot cope with a paper stack, stapled in the corner,
querying in a language foreign.
Designed to destroy me.

Tonight, in my mom’s car,
but not my mom’s car,
my brother and I are riding with her somewhere.
It is night and the trees are dead but upright.

There is a fire burning beneath the ground
that no one knows about except me.
Ashes seep from the the branches’ tips
like buds in the spring.

On this two lane country road,
there is a curve to the right,
bright yellow cautioning in the whites of my eyes.

My mom turns to look at our eyes
sees only the blue
and misses the turn.
The undercarriage of the car
slams onto the forest floor
with roars of a cold freight train.

The car cannot be stopped and our headlights bounce
into the middle of the woods and stop.

It looks like our backyard
but not our backyard.

The hair on my neck prickles and I know
that from the fire under our tires
something shadowed and shapeless
has evil intentions.

I feel my fingers press into my eyes
as I’m forcing them to open.
Wake up, wake up.  There’s something…
bad.

I’m left sitting up in my bed,
with the nightmare clinging to me
like smoke in my hair and clothes.

I’m left wondering from miles away
some days
if I needed to stay and fight that fire,
reattach that shadow,
and turn that test in blank.

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