Olga Broumas

Sleeping Beauty

I sleep, I sleep
too long, sheer hours
hound me, out
of bed and into clothes, I wake
still later, breathless, heart
racing, sleep
peeling off like a hairless
glutton, momentarily
slaked. Cold

water shocks me
back from the dream. I see
lovebites like fossils: something
that did exist

dreamlike, though
dreams have the perfect alibi, no
fingerprints, evidence
that a mirror could float
back in your own face, gleaming
its silver eye. Lovebites like fossils. Evidence.

round my neck like a ceremonial
necklace, suddenly
snapped apart.


Blood. Tears. The vital
salt of our body. Each
other’s mouth.
the taste of you
sharpens my tongue like a thousand shells,
bitter, metallic. I know

as I sleep
that my blood runs clear
as salt
in your mouth, my eyes.


City-center, mid-
traffic, I
wake to your public kiss. Your name
is Judith, your kiss a sign

to the shocked pedestrians, gathered
beneath the light that means
in our culture
where red is a warning, and men
threaten each other with final violence. I will drink
your blood.
Your kiss
is for them

a sign of betrayal, your red
lips suspect, unspeakable
liberties as
we cross the street, kissing
against the light, singing, This
is the woman I woke from sleep, the woman that woke
me sleeping.

Olga Broumas first published “Sleeping Beauty” in BEGINNING WITH O (1977), © Yale University Press. Reproduced by permission of Yale University Press.