In this country where we do not speak of dreams.

April 8, 2020

In this country where we do not speak of dreams.

It is a superstition based
on nothing more than the unease
you feel after touching
a butterfly’s wing
and noticing the powder —
smeared silk on your fingertip.

If you are a decent sort,
you worry that you have done harm.
Can the little bug still fly?
And what have you done it for?
Have you wrecked this beautiful moment
with your clumsy humanity?

Maybe someone tells you it’s OK.

Butterflies can lose some scales
and sometimes you can tell an old one
by the clear spots on its wings.
They are fragile, but not that fragile.

But even so, you learn not to probe and push
too hard or deeply into beauty.
And so we do not promiscuously
share our dreams or even try to
reclaim them as they evaporate.

We let them cycle and hum
in the cosmic dynamo.

Puny as we are, we try to be brave,
to accept the things we cannot change
with wit and dignity and calm.

But if I were to speak to you
of my father in his eighties,
tanned and refreshed and sitting
across from me in some high mountain bar
all sleek slate and unbroken blue
telling me he never died but
changed his named to “Declan Bagsby”
and moved to Hollywood to be an actor
with 50 IMDB credits
and always worried I would notice him
as the clueless guidance counselor
in some high school sex comedy….

I would not blame you for leaving.

And so, in my country, we do not tell our dreams.

We put them down as random neurons
firing in our sleep, recapitulations
of unconscious notice, a way of sifting
through perceptions, night clerks busy
in the dark, huddling over accounts
they find difficult to reconcile.

Nothing to see in our dreams, buddy.

Nothing to see anywhere, I guess,
it’s all bone and gristle and money
and a man’s a fool to pay attention
to the whistle and the whine
and the creak of ancient doors
and oh that lonesome whippoorwill
and the pretty ways of words and noises,
all the patterns that might be teased out
of some old hick mailman’s head.

It was the one year anniversary
of the day our small mad dog went missing
only to be found the next day
hiding in a cupboard in our new house
and so Karen cooked some salmon
and we drank dry rosé wine
and watched something on television
and went to bed early.

The moon was beautiful the night
we learned that John Prine died
in this country where we do not speak of dreams.


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