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Night Cramp by Cheryl Caesar

It yanks me awake,

the tetanizing pain.


We’re not meant to feel this

and live, I think. I make demands

to Someone: If it goes on for another

x minutes, I want to die.


Horses in colic go mad from the pain.

They shoot them, don’t they?


Remind myself that it’s happened before,

and will be gone soon. When it’s here,

I think of the time when it wasn’t.

When it’s gone, I forget what pain is.

That’s how we go on living.


I writhe, and every movement

makes it tighten like a torturous vise.


Breathe, I think, but it doesn’t help.

Stop breathing, and the vise turns again.


Try to stretch – but steel won’t stretch.

Rub it gently – the pain lashes out.


Nothing to do but wait in the dark.


The alarm blinks red numbers: 11:08:16;

stuck at the moment when we lost power.


Cheryl Caesar lived in Paris, Tuscany, and Sligo for 25 years; she earned her doctorate in comparative literature at the Sorbonne and taught literature and phonetics. She now teaches writing at Michigan State University. She has published her poetry and translations of Jean Tardieu’s in Blackberry, The Coe Review, Labyris, The Wayside Quarterly, Stand, and The Dialogue of Nations.

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