IN THE WAKE OF DREAMS

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5. CLOUD HOPPING



Reclining on a cloud
With a course predestined
Gazing at the firmament above
I could not tell whether I was
Coming to or going away
From something.

Reaching into my navel
I pulled on a gut
Stretching and twisting it until
The thin red lifeline
Reached the ground.
Grounded in the gut
Vibrations coming up the line
Informed me of the terrain
I was passing over.

A jarring bump made me sit up—
And who was there but
My beloved grandmother riding
Her own private cumulus cloud.
In the evening haze she looked
The image of a thousand years—
Skin draped over bone
Eyes bleached by distances
Hair electrified by endurance.

Though shook up by the collision
Grandmother was delighted to see me
"I waited for you all these years"
She said in a chirpy birdlike whisper
"Rest. You need to rest. You have
A long way to go."

The setting sun kindling
A fireplace glow I
Dressed in layers of gossamer
Bounced on her bed
As I used to when a child
Then reclined on cushions of satin
Sheen billowing luminous
As we sailed the sky.
In blissful slumber I heard
A bird whisper
"Do not seek your own kind
Keep to yourself always."


*

A tug at my gut
Made me look down—
I was skirting steps
Hewn in the face of a tall cliff.
Descending I was climbing the steps
When I noticed climbing beside me
My shadow
Head sporting a warrior's helmet
Crest-plumes on fire
Licking stone.

At the top of the cliff was
A desolate heat-scorched desert.
Treetops beyond a cluster of boulders
Offering relief. There
In a metallic shade of trees
An old man was planing wood
Standing knee-deep
In spiraling wood shavings
Fiercely compacted.
Unhurried motions bespeaking
He'd been long at it.

I said hello but
The carpenter did not move.
I ventured to ask
What he intended to build and
Without looking up he said
"I build ships for events to come."
"And who might be using these ships?"
"Those who trust the wind" he said.
Having outworn my welcome
I departed.

Flying back to a passing cloud
In the waters below
I saw a ship set out to sea
The ship built to withstand
Treacherous waters
Sails rigged for a distant voyage.


*

The lifeline was trailing over
What looked from above like
A huge boulder but was
A domed wayside shrine.

Three times I walked around it
Looking for a door before I sensed
Someone behind me
And stopped but did not dare
To look back.
Whoever it was
Took my hand from behind
Pressed a small object into my palm
And breath on my nape he said
"Deliver this and thou shall be delivered."

In my hand was a small golden key
The door in front of me—
Hinges creaking it opened by itself
And as soon as I stepped in
It slammed shut behind me.

Inside
A shaft of amber light pierced
The darkness abuzz with whispers
The high noon angle casting
A luminous circle on the tile floor.
In the light circle
Back turned to me
A figure was kneeling
The line of shoulders
Bespeaking an old man
The layer of dust
A long journey.

Kneeling down beside him
I placed the golden key
On a tile before him.
With the key the sage pried up
The ornate tile and showed me
The underside of it. There
Engraved in numismatic detail
People were harvesting grapes.
The scene
A command that dispatched me
On a mission—
Leaning into the shaft of light I
Beamed up into the
Long forgotten future.


*

The quivering lifeline brought me
To a tall wooden building
Leaning precariously into its shadow
That strained to hold it up.
The musty hall was packed with
Lamentations spilling from above.
I climbed endless steps
Before I reached the floor where
A coffin was carried shoulder-high.
I asked who died and was told
Someone afflicted with impatience.

Taking Grandmother's advice
To stay by myself always
I did not join the procession but
Climbed the narrow stairs to the attic
And opened a window.

Far below
The desert basin
Ringed by haze-blue mountains
Was collecting evening shadows—
Violets ushering sunset russets
Pinks meandering uncharted
The altitude ravenous—
Delirious I took off
Soaring high above
The funerary procession—
A line of black dots
A dash for the coffin
Winding on the desert floor.


*

Suddenly too heavy for myself
I landed on a ledge in front of a cave
High in the face of a cliff.
As soon as my feet touched stone
Out of the cave stepped forth
A lion a white horse
A serpent up on its tail
A baby elephant afraid of heights
And a macho red bull—
Standing chest to chest
They blocked the cave.

Edging along the ledge
I came face to face with Mother Earth
Emerging from a crack in stone—
Her features wind-swept rain-carved
Her eyes two drops of water
Trapped in a wrinkle.
Mother Earth tried to say something
But lips cracking she
Merely gestured suggesting
I follow her into the stone.


*

The heart of stone
Was sealed off by a wall
A hole in it keeping vigil.
Mother Earth bid I press my eye to it—
Behind the wall was a cavernous space
The low ceiling resting on sturdy shadows
Menacing sounds making me turn
To Mother Earth.
She bid me use the other eye
And now I saw two figures
Pushing a wheelbarrow loaded
With fragile plaster molds about
To collapse under their own weight.
The cast was of a woman
In a convulsed position
The concave sides painted—
The back of the head day-glow blue
The chest iridescent green
Arms primary red
Thighs raw orange.

The longer I looked at the cast
The less sure I was whether I had just
Shed the mold or was
To be fitted into a molding device.
I turned to Mother Earth but
There was only dust gently falling.


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