He never imagined for a moment that he would be here, here of all places, on the precipice of an abyss the likes of which he only visited in nightmares.
And he knew, when he looked back he knew he would see the pack of Abyssinians heading for him, and that was another nightmare given his cat allergy and his intense Ailurophobia.
So there it was, on one hand the abyss, on the the other the Abyssinians, simply an abysmal Morton’s fork and he felt he had to face death, and in that moment the alarm went off and he was awake in a pool of sweat.
Ann Arbor a certain diffidence Butte born of three rum Collins Carmel the Gucci show windows Duluth darkened, foreboding Erie escalator rattle Fairbanks a sound coffin Grapevine grand piano Hilo the restaurant empty Ithaca seeking diners Jacksonville by the exit signs Kalamazoo conventioneers drool Lincoln and slobber Memphis over the ankh necklace Natchez girl cross legged Oakland engulfed in smoke Providence the ficus droops Rehoboth in the shade of the bar Salem laughter turning Toledo into controlled sobs Urbana highball glass slips Vidalia off the table edge Wausau and falls Xenia dropping slowly Yuma through the night Zanesville into sleep.
Deep beneath the Arctic ice the whale songs shimmer in the harsh light of a frozen sun. We strive to hear them, hear nothing, hear only our thoughts echoing through cavernous memories. With thoughts of what was, what we wish had been, we are ambient noise in a universe which cradles hope, craves silence. Dolphins dream of days when the sea was theirs, lives lived in a slow paradise a world the land- bound would never comprehend even as they laid waste to it.
In the dark heart of night time is suddenly frozen, the clock’s hands stalactites and stalagmites, unyielding denying the approach of morning, leaving the sun imprisoned under the watchful gaze of its celestial wardens.
It is then you appear, call out to me, beg me be silent, not asking the lifetime of questions I have accreted, providing my own hopes and imagination for answers, but you have faces, not those of that weekend but of other days, she younger, in college, he in a college yearbook at a school he never attended save as part of the ROTC contingent of the Air Force.
I bid you farewell, finally, and time again takes motion and morning welcomes the sun.
In my dreams I wandered the alleys of Lisbon searching for a familiar face, and many came close, but no man stopped me and asked if I was, by chance his son, for he dreamed I was what a son of his would look like.
Now I have no need to wander for I know he is in a military cemetery in Burlington, New Jersey, and I doubt he had any idea in life he had another son, or a daughter in Italy, for weekends were quickly passed when you had to be back at the base by midnight on Sunday.
She sits demurely on the step staring off at something. You want to know what but her face isn’t saying, her eyes soft, revealing nothing, her smile enticing, teasing, and out of grasp.
You want to sit with her, see what she looks at, what has captured her thoughts, and there is room on the step for you to join her, but you have never met, you cannot sit next to her, she there half a century ago, and you know she will only be the stuff of dreams one night.
It starts quickly and unexpectedly. You do not know when it will start, why, or what it will bring. There are times when even after it is done, you cannot be certain what it was, what it did, what it meant. Often, though, you forget it before you have time to capture it. It is evanescent, an intense glimmer that can quickly fade to a void, as though it was never there. You wish you could capture it, but you know well that dreams act under their own rules.
The ghosts of my birth parents blow into my dreams as so many white sheets torn from the clothesline by gale winds, fly over me, at once angels and vultures carrying off memories created from the clay of surmise and wishful thinking.
I invite their visits, frail branches to which to cling in the storms of growing age, beginnings tenuous anchors to hold against time, knowing the battle cannot be won, but take joy in skirmishes not to be diminished by an ultimate failure I have long come to accept.
The quieter you become the more you can hear. — Baba Ram Dass
Orion lies over the wharf staring at the moon, dangling like an unyielding eye, barring sleep while below the waves wash onto the shore, licking the pilings and tasting the sand, a calming roar broken only by the barking of the harbor seals. It is not a night for hunting the bear has fled over the horizon preparing for the coming winter and the hunter tires from the chase. A gull nips at his heels, and plunges back into the swells, he must be content with the odd fish and scraps from the strange ones who mass on the wharf each day and retreat by night until there is only the hunter and the goddess and two young men curled into the sand. I stand on the balcony and stare at the hunter wishing that sleep would come, that the white eye would blink, but the waves wash in and the harbor seals bark and the stars beat a slow retreat.
There are nights when the song of a single cricket can pull you away from sleep. She says that she has heard that not all Angels have wings and neither of them is sure how you would know if you met a bodhisattva. He searches the mail every day, for a letter from unknown birth parents but none of the credit cards he ought to carry offers to rebate his dreams. Each night they lie back pressed to back and slip into dreams. She records hers in the journal she keeps with the pen, by the bed. He struggles to recall his and places what shards he can in the burlap sack of his memory.
First Published in Where Beach Meets Ocean, The Block Island Poetry Project, 2013