Caravaggio Fever Dream


“Caravaggio Fever Dream” by Stephanie Saywell is the winner of the 2023 Grisly & Grotesque Challenge, selected by Palette editors. We’re honored to share this haunting poem with you.

Caravaggio Fever Dream

I am so sorry I cut off your head, plunged my fingers
into your eye socket like too many summer berries

at the buffet of my desire. The thick shadow of your maw
made me think of mine and my chin was dry. I regret

that I never mentioned you in my sleep, never thought
that you might want me to leave the porch light on

for a thousand saints to welcome you to my home. Please –
dirty your feet in my garden. I promise I have feelings

for you, I just won’t tell you which ones. The leaving
whispered to me at night like a warning. Your knees creased

with kneeling and mine lasciviously moaned with relief
at finally standing up from the grotesque altar

of your flesh. I curled my knuckles around my own softness
and pried it apart. I licked a marble statue on the lips

in the wet-dream of summer. I stretched my own ceramic
seams. I broke the fourth wall. No one asked

for the dramatic lighting yet here we are. My vision
is not so good but I wear a decadent gown and can see

your filthy hands from a mile away. Didn’t you know?
Every man is on the brink of a tragic death. Every woman

wields a knife.

Stephanie Saywell