There are the dreams that everyone has,
the ones that when you tell them at work the next day,
they nod and say oh yeah, I used to have that one too.
Everybody remembers and smiles:
I. The final for the class you registered for and completely
forgot to attend. You have never heard of the building,
and when you finally get there (an hour late),
all the doors are locked. The rows of obedient students,
none of whom you recognize, all of whom have already filled
at least two full pages with lines of perfect script,
do not look up, and keep writing as fast as they can,
no matter how frantically you pound on the window.
Oh, yes--you are, of course, naked and it is snowing
and in any case you have the wrong color pen.
II. You are chosen for the top-secret mission, to be one of the elite,
black-garbed bodyguards who alone can foil the attack
on the king?/premier?/kindly elder celebrity? during the mandatory
opening ceremonies at the new museum?/prison?/department store?
The flight device is so simple you wonder why we don't all have them;
just a Velcro belt and two handles: when you squeeze them
it starts to rise, faster and faster; when you let go, a gentle descent,
and you just lean and stretch your neck in the direction
you want to go, so you and your commanding officer arrive in
plenty of time to save the day. The archenemy's terrorists are disguised,
of course, but you spot them with consummate ease, and when you shout
"Drop the assault weapon!" their leader obeys with alacrity.
You wake up still grinning.
III. You are piloting a jumbo jet, with its incomprehensible
black slant of colored lights and digital displays and auditory backdrop
of vociferously complaining passengers, in slow motion through a suburb,
hovering just a few meters above the tree-lined residential boulevard.
The wings don't quite make it--there goes the neighborhood!
IV. This dream starts with nothing more than a feeling
of something urgent and wanting; and then there is a child,
old enough to go alone to the restroom, but young enough
to press his nose against the clear cylinder of endlessly rotating desserts,
all fluted ruffles of cream frosting, all bigger than his stomach,
bigger than his head, which he finally turns to scan the room
and finds out that his parents have left the diner,
their car is no longer in the parking lot, and he shades his eyes with his hand
(the sun is quite low at this point) to see it smoothly accelerate
up the ramp onto the freeway and rapidly diminish
to a small bright spot moving toward the darkening horizon.
V. You wander the hallways of an immense edifice
(hotel? bank? archive? palace? skyscraper?) and perhaps
there are a few faceless people rushing through the corridors,
but it is closing time and the encounters become less frequent
and dwindle to zero. You enter a side chamber,
the burnished parquet floors and paneling still glowing
in the sunset which radiates through huge French doors
that open onto a balcony, but once out there,
miles above a crawling landscape, there is a chilling, sour wind
and the structure strains and groans ominously,
drowning the harsh screams of hungry, invisible birds.
When you turn around the doors have silently locked themselves
and the room is shadowy and sad. There is a subsonic rumble:
the building tilts, shuddering, and begins to rise;
you catch the flimsy railing as you tumble over it,
but the rusted metal will not hold
and you fall for a long time.
VI. You are a member of the uprising (this dream
doesn't last long) and your cell is betrayed;
it doesn't matter who or why: the only variation
(this is one you have over and over and over) is that you can choose:
to be shot where you stand, screaming defiance,
or when you turn to run.
VII. And then there was the dream where you woke
in a dirty bed, in a strange house, among
evil companions, and couldn't remember
going there or how it happened,
and when you went home
you'd been gone for years.
VIII. Something cries to come in,
scratching at the door long after midnight:
there is no moon. And you stumble out of bed
and down the stairs, muttering imprecations
and reassurances, and undo the lock
and open. The wind is cold.
Something black flows silently in at ground level
and you think it's the cat,
but it's not.
IX. This is the one you'll never tell anybody about.
This is the one you can't bear to have;
this is the one you can't remember.
This is the one where you never wake up.
Beloit Poetry Journal, Rosebud, Southern Poetry Review, Tattoo Highway, etc.
Sauce Robert (Pavement Saw Press, 2003)
2004 Pauline Ellis Prose Poetry Prize
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