Tara Campbell

Why I couldn’t sleep until morning: Tara Campbell

Why I couldn’t sleep until morning

I. Because

my heart wouldn’t stop

punchbagging my lungs


II. my brother told me

someone at work

tested positive for that thing

that’s too current to write about

if you’re creating


That morning I dreamt about

my dead mother

in my childhood home


in a hot pink room

with a television

blaring homicide

Soandso’s coming Thursday

my dead mother said

Soandso’s coming Friday

all of us gathering

like we do for holidays

or for death

III. his coworker’s quarantined


but my head feels hot

and I ask my brother

when he’ll get tested

by which I mean

how long until

my brain can stop

chasing these nightmares,

ouroboros eating

its own calamitous self

IV. and I think about

how they share a workspace—but

not at the same time

he hastened to tell me,


they wipe everything down

between shifts—but

between us

we don’t talk about

V. the virus and

enclosed spaces

and air

I’m still waiting to hear

his test results

and wondering

why I dreamt about murder

when my mother died of old age

and I know it’s because of

VI. those who have led us

to it is what it is

to “avoidable” = “acceptable” risk

to “essential” = “expendable” workers

to number one in the world


VII. to hell

with art,

I’m writing

Tara Campbell (www.taracampbell.com) is a writer, teacher, Kimbilio Fellow, and fiction editor at Barrelhouse. She received her MFA from American University in 2019. Previous and upcoming publication credits include SmokeLong Quarterly, Masters Review, Wigleaf, Jellyfish Review, Booth, Strange Horizons, and CRAFT Literary. She's the author of a novel, TreeVolution, and two collections, Circe's Bicycle and Midnight at the Organporium. Her newest book, Political AF: A Rage Collection, was released by Unlikely Books in August 2020.