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I’m standing on a beach. My flowered dress has washed out to sea. A voice says, “Aren’t you going to get it? It’s yours.”
I walk into the foaming white breakers, and begin to swim past the incoming waves, but I keep getting washed ashore.
Forgetting about the dress, I go to the pool. I dive underwater. The lifeguard, who is on a break, dives underwater. Our meeting under the surface is a secret from the others. He is my lover. I see his blurry face approach me from above. He’s smiling. We embrace underwater. I’m happy and in love.
Dot lived with her daughter Pen in a crumbling stucco house with a muddy front yard.
When Pen turned sixteen, Dot decided to redecorate the basement in a nautical theme in honor of their annual summer trips to Maine. “Honey, now you can invite the boys to our house.”
Despite the girth of her abdomen, Dot was able to shove the couch to one side in order to paint the paneling a fresh seaside white. A film of Cheetos and cracker crumbs speckled the carpet, leading her gaze to a hole in the wall. She saw rat droppings, and screamed.
Grocery store managers have heaped mounds of red grapes in metal carts. Several women are leaning over the carts, filling bushel baskets with grapes.
I join the women, reaching in one hand at a time for clusters of ripe, moist grapes. The problem is that the grapes are invisible. My basket appears empty.
A confident woman places her basket on the floor, and uses both hands to scoop up the grapes, with great success. I decide to follow her example.
The grapes pile up in my basket, but I stop when it’s half full. I don’t want to be greedy.
It’s nighttime. I’m living in a garbage dump, on the outskirts of town. Many black-haired men, women, and children have crowded into dumpsters. My hair is shoeshine black too. We are outsiders, perhaps outlaws. In this city of outcasts, I’m a pariah, marginalized to a thin metal beam. I cling to the side of the dumpster.
Several coal-headed men pass in trucks. They’re preparing to purge rejects like me.
A man approaches. Although he’s my relative, he plans to kill me. I plead with him to spare me.
“You’re tainted too - you’re next, ” I say. He ignores me.
How is it that Grandpa is still alive? He died so many years ago. He dances from foot to foot like a scarecrow come to life.
An evil man has ordered everyone in the family to search for the lifecycle of carnations. We have an hour.
The computers in the house are taken. Father is sitting at one of them, wearing a plaid shirt. I use the phone, and call a florist.
The florist asks me for my name, but I invent fake information.
The scene fast forwards, showing me how the man has tricked us. He might kill me.
I’m in the ocean, watching huge battleships maneuvering in the choppy waves. A voice tells me my great grandfather had been the captain of one of these ships. I notice guns, turrets, portholes, and other protuberances. I wonder if the ships will bump into each other. I feel frustrated watching them. It’s too complicated.
My gaze turns to shore, where giant military men swing their bodies into formation. They tower over me, and intimidate me with their long red capes. I can’t understand what they’re doing, what their purpose is. I only know they are somehow connected to the ships.
I’m with an old man who resembles George Carlin. He’s teaching me something. Some boys are in the room too, but they’re not getting the message. It’s raining in drops the size of pears. We go to bed.
The man argues with a whiney woman who needs more room in bed. Three of us are sharing a narrow mattress. I get up to look out the window.
The rainwater has reached the foundation of the building. An ocean of rain shines under moonlight.
I hear church bells playing music. Stars fill the sky-it must be safe to go home now.
My classroom occupies two adjoining rooms, one cavernous, the other a small, octagonal space. Those in the octagonal room can’t see me when I teach, nor can I see them.
The larger room is a history teacher’s room. Giant screens hang from the ceiling. White boards with lavender markers and books line the walls.
I’m winging the lesson. I pass out index cards to the students, saying, “Choose a name in Spanish, and write it on the card. If I draw your name, you’ll receive candy. But I forgot to bring the candy, so you’ll have to wait until tomorrow.”
I’m teaching pilates. No one knows where the equipment is or what room to go to. When I try to leave, I realize I didn’t sign my time sheet. I finally get out the door, and go to the airport.
Waiting for the plane on the tarmac, I see a jet slide toward me like a freeboard. I worry it will hit me.
A man and his dog come to find me. He want to bring me back with him. His golden retriever runs away, and I try to catch it. Going down some stairs, my feet sink into sand.
A man dressed in black appears when someone wishes for him. He plops into the room from the sky. He’s a Helper and a Feeler, one who knows.
A man in the room wishes for his helper to appear. He looks for him in the room with the others, but doesn’t find him. He goes outside and finds his Helper reclining on the hood of a car, gazing at a night sky filled with stars.
Others people, including families, have toddlers and older children as their magical Helpers. I choose a toddler girl walking on the edge of a box.
what a surgeon sacrifices, past and present:
years of living without
the luxury of sleeping in
naps without dogs
any sense of mystery about
what lies below a sternum
freedom to wear dirt under my nails
ability to slip up now and then
sensitivity to the smell
of my bovie pen cauterizing flesh
words with edges that wound
wounds without kisses
the layman's perspective
of how lives are saved
a heart beating in anger
anger laying blame on someone else's blood
unit after unit of someone else’s blood
tears with stinging salt
stings that don't come from bees
I’m on a sightseeing trip with my family, on our way to Spain. I’m so excited to get there I can hardly contain my joy.
We approach Madrid by train, yet at the same time we are moving alongside the railroad tracks, flying. I point out to my family, “See how we are going up at such a steep incline?”
I see the tracks, with pieces of lumber protruding. It resembles a makeshift rollercoaster.
When we enter Madrid, we visit an ancient church. As we climb the stone stairs, I realize I’ve been here in my dreams on previous trips.
Tucked between the hanging garments of a circular dry cleaning rack, I’m groping with a Brazilian man. Very hot.
A metal dwarf tugs at my feet in anger, and pulls me out of my hiding place. I’m disappointed, and somewhat afraid of being caught having sex.
The Brazilian and I go to sleep in my parents’ room. A ten-year old girl enters the room, crying. “You were making too much noise, and you woke me up.”
I prop myself up in bed. I think, ‘I wasn’t making any noise. She woke me up. Why am I in my parents’ bed?”
I’m sitting on the front porch of a farmhouse with an older Englishman. We feel a signifigant amount of love for each other, that might possibly lead to a relationship. I lean my head on his chest, but a certain something hinders our expression of affection for each other.
We’re waiting for a yoga and writing workshop to begin. Several others are there waiting too. But it turns out there aren’t enough rooms for all of us, so some of us will have to go elsewhere.
We go to New York, to stay in a tiny apartment down the street.
In the bathroom of a miniscule apartment in Manhattan, several women jostle each other for a place at the sink. We’re settling into our bunks before the yoga and writing retreat.
I have a recipe for a special tea. One of the ingredients is rosemary, but the letters spell out an unintelligible word. My friend, an herbalist, snatches the paper from my hand to read it, but I pull it away from her. “I can read,” I say.
In the cupboard I find a jar of herbs, crawling with worms. I throw it in the trash, where red snakes writhe.
I need to escape from Berk, who doesn’t love me-we have an unhealthy connection.
We fly over a city of giants. The night sky spreads out before us, and smoke rises in tendrils from below. The giants appear as dark outlines growing up from the earth like brown pines. Berk’s looking for a place to put me.
Berk finds a spot in a garbage dump, a lean-to some men have placed behind a restaurant. I crawl into it, using my hands to sweep away the greasy remains of fast food. From here I’ll plot my escape from blonde Berk.
A woman is running for her life. She’s racing on a motorcycle down a two-lane road cutting through the desert. Her motorcycle rides above the road on lapping tongues of fire. An evil queen pursues her, flying in a blue hot-air balloon.
The woman shoots a flaming sphere from her tailpipe, puncturing a hole in the queen’s balloon. We zoom in on a close-up of the ragged hole in the blue surface of the balloon-black nothingness.
Motorcycle woman escapes, and finds safety behind palace walls. The walls are ornately decorated with gilt and painted carvings. She finds the king.
Berk has left me for buxom, blonde Rosalia. I sneak into Rosalia’s house to steal her flying potion. A young couple are already in her bedroom, sitting near an open window. Although they’ve swallowed Rosalia’s invisibility elixir, I can see the blue outlines of their forms against the fluttering white sheers.
They swallow the potion, and fly out the window, landing at the base of an oak tree. A streetlight illuminates the ground below.
Afraid to fly, I throw my book out the window first, watching it drop. I jump out the window, gliding to a stop on my feet.
The story of how I built my house flashes before my eyes. A female voice, maybe my own, narrates the stages of construction, step by step.
“First I built the foundation.” Before my eyes a dirt wall forms, and then carved granite bricks fall into place, forming a retaining wall.
“Then the landscaping and the front deck.” Bushes spring up, a stone patio, and then a living room, a bedroom, and a study. The back part is incomplete.
A blonde woman comes to stay, and she goes to my study, closing the door. Angry, I barge in, reclaiming my space.
I have a book of lists where I write my own secret information between the lines. My words appear as beige rivulets waving under the lines of text.
I offer to read aloud to my husband, but I don’t want him to see what I’ve written. He might find out about my true love, and the fact that I might be pregnant.
One of my lists is about time. It’s time to swim. As I read to my husband, the words in the book shift to a scene at a swimming pool. People walk around wearing old-fashioned, black bathing suits.
I’m taking a Pilates class with a group of women. The teacher is a tall, muscular man wearing dreadlocks. He begins to move backwards around the room, and gives me a bad look when I get in front of him. I’m out of order, not following his lead.
One of the women says, “ Brenda told me you’ve been working out too much, as if you were a much younger woman.”
“I wish she would tell me that to my face,” I say.
I leave the class on my bicycle, and get lost near a desolate park, on a dead-end.
My character, a young man, is riding a bike, trying to leave a neighborhood. He keeps reaching the same dead-end street. A voice narrates the events as they are happening. The young man sings a song to himself, narrating his saga of traveling across the country.
He rides past a chain-link fenced area filled with burned grass. It’s supposed to be a park, but no one would want to go there.
He rides down the same street, again and again. Then he rides up some stairs to a highway overpass. Another dead-end. He decides to retrace his route.
I’m trying to get away from a scruffy guy, a woman’s husband. She did something dangerous on a carnival ride, and had her children taken away from her. The husband wants to beat the woman. He’s wildly drunk.
We run through the woods, over a beach, and through someone’s house. A huge mansion appears on the side of the road, built in a modern eclectic style, with many architectural elements. It’s painted a dark, mossy green. Two young men come out. “Welcome to our home!”
She approaches the house, intrigued. I want to keep running, but she would rather stay.
I am visiting a place south of my home, somewhere off the highway, near Kentucky. I’ve traveled here many times before, and have memorized a mental map of the roads. There’s a granite quarry, no longer mined, filled up with spring and rain water, crystal clear.
I remember swimming in this water during another dream. We swam under the water, and entered a secret cave.
My friend Amanda and her boyfriend live here. “Have you guys been to the quarry?”
“No, we’ve never gone.”
“Why not? I can’t believe you’ve never gone swimming there. It’s so beautiful and refreshing there.”
Different people have been held prisoner, for no apparent reason. Even I have been forced to stay behind a door with a smoked glass window. I bang on the door, trying to get out.
But then it is my father who is imprisoned. Someone has wrapped him in heavy chains to a large boulder, just like Prometheus. He struggles against the chains, but can’t release himself.
I approach him. His eyes are watery, and white stubble covers his jaw. “Have you been here long?”
He nods his head. “For five days.” He starts to cry. I feel sorry for him.
I am pulling blouses out of my drawers to give away. Since I’m no longer a high school teacher, I don’t need formal clothes. I’m going to give the blouses to a new teacher who will need them. I find a few collar shirts with the emblem of my old school on them. She’ll like those, I think.
My friend Carol has come to visit me with her two girls. I go out to the car to see her. It is nighttime. Crusty snow covers the ground. I decide to give the blouses to Carol. Her husband has left her.
I’m at an art exhibit for women who have submitted poems to a new literary journal. The gallery is hidden behind a huge metal machine, with portholes through which I view the poets’ artwork and journals.
Walking down a corridor, I peek into the tiny windows, thrilled with the creativity I see. I anticipate seeing my name among the chosen ones, but as I move along, searching, I realize my poems haven’t been selected, and I’m dejected.
I turn some large knobs on the metal wall of the gallery, hoping my name will reveal itself in a window.
Collected dream fragments
I try to write poems that the surface will absorb and suck up, releasing verses to the atmosphere so others can read them.
Two golden retrievers sit on a couch in the dark, their faces illuminated by an unknown source. The female nuzzles her companion’s snout.
A house built over the ocean where young people live contains burnt sienna spice in secret places. I go to the bathroom and open a cabinet- orange spice, granules, powder I lick to get high.
A map of the world – I zoom in on Mexico, then Cuernavaca. Conversations in Spanish.
Zoom in on a map of Mexico. Fly closer, and land in Cuernavaca.
In the darkened kitchen of a Mexican family, I sit with a young couple and chat. The wife has black stubble on her upper lip and chin. She needs to shave.
Her husband is controlling. She talks about how in Mexico it is impolite to change one’s clothing in public, on the street. When she looks at her husband for approval, he assumes a pompous, all-knowing look, like Owl from Winnie the Pooh, and begins a diatribe on arcane Mexican mores only he is able to describe.
The Tip Jar