IN THE WAKE OF DREAMS

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2. FALSE STARTS



At the edge of a birch forest
The canopy of tall whispers
Promised shelter
The pungent green scent
Invigorating
The pearly luster bouncing
Off white trunk to white trunk
An invitation.

Deep inside the forest
In a clearing speckled with
Swaying green dots
I cut shadows into planks and
Built myself a hut.
Then planted rows of wild onions
Bittersweet greens and barley
For the winter months.

Every morning Sun rolled over
The treetops and we'd spend the day
Tending the garden together.
"What's new at home?" I'd ask.
"Nothing much" the sun would say
"Father is wearing new shoes
Mother nursing a sniffle."
"Do they miss me?"
"They don't see you absent."

All was cozy and well until
Night creatures started feasting
On the shoots in my garden.
To keep the nibblers away
I built a sturdy birch-trunk stockade
To last a lifetime. Still
Night after night wild beasts ran
Circles around the enclave
Keeping me awake.

To prevent a surprise stampede
I spent days spinning grasses
With cobwebs
Stretching string between
Points in the stockade and
The four corners of my pillow
Rattling seed-pods hung on lines
To give me ample warning.

After weeks of toil
It was impossible to move about in
The tangle of lines crisscrossing
The breadth and width of
My domain—
I had entrapped myself
In a labyrinth of fears
Spider-sensitive to touch
Myself setting off
Countless jittery alarms.

I spoke to the beasts
"Leave me alone I mean no harm!"
To no effect. Then shouted
"I will outsmart you any time
You won't get rid of me that fast!"
Then hollered accusations
"You wreckers of my life you
Beasts you selfish you..."
Running out of words
I shut up.

That night silence
Star-layered tall transparent
Reigned supreme—
Was I raising the havoc myself?

To see what happened
I climbed the stockade—
The birch forest was gone
Only the stumps of trees I felled
To build the wall were there.
In the tall succulent grasses
A herd of white horses grazing
The sun-drenched scene so serene
I jumped to their side.


*

A dark cloud slumbering
On a mountain convulsed
And in a stupendous blast it
Spat out a hissing bolt of lightning—
It struck the pinnacle stuck in it
And like a broken pillar of fire
It stood there sputtering ominous
Crackling electric commands
Beyond my understanding.

At the foot of the mountain
A magnificent white steed appeared
Shock-static trembling—it
Could not bear to be seen.
As I approached the steed
The pillar of fire rip-roared forebodings
And as I reached to stroke it
Cooing "Come now come..."
Shaking like God's finger
The pillar roared NO NO!
Yet the steed stood there
As if ordained to stand still.
Touching its silken underbelly
I whispered into its pink velvet ear
"Teach me how not to think."


*

I was walking
On a crumbling finger of earth
Wedged deep into a river of blood
Walking against the stream
When drops of blood
The size of overripe plums
Started splashing on my face—
Rivulets of blood running down
My back my chest my legs
Mapping skin.
Four horses
Hitched to a chariot—
Eye-whites flashing alarm
The driver absent—
Splashed downstream
Whipping blood into foam—
And right behind them
In the foaming wake of blood
A severed black head
Bobbing shouting
"Turn around—Go back—"

Sure enough
Behind me lay a desert basin
The color of powder-dry
Battlefield blood.

*

I shook my head but instead
A thought shook loose
Spread wings
And a blackbird escaped
The perils of the mind.
Another thought unfolded wings and
In no time a flock of blackbirds
Was tracing lofty circles on
The steel-hard evening sky.

Gaze fixed on the nearest bird
I wished the rest away
Then watched the solitary bird
Splice air and fall beyond
The crater's rim streaked
Sunset orange.

At the vanishing point
An inky mass clambered up
A snow-white bird on its shoulder.
The unsustainable whiteness
Spread wings and rose but
Too heavy for itself the bird
Halted in midair
Swayed to the right to the left
And screeching wings beating
As if to scare the black away
Plummeted into
The contrast of color.

Leaving the shrieking bird behind
The mass rolled over the rim and
Spreading shadows like accusations
Was approaching me but
A stride away it stopped
Turned around and
Gathering shadows like skirts
Climbed up the rim smothering
The shrieking white bird
In the folds.

The linear logic of because
Did not apply here.


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