IN THE WAKE OF DREAMS

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6. THE DOUBLE OF THE DOUBLE



Last night
On the ashen desert floor
My ruby-red shadow
Headless
Was walking before me—
Have I lost my head?

Raising a hand to check
In the shadow I saw a basket
Dangling on my arm
And in it under a linen napkin
Two heads cheek-to-cheek
Both in my image as if
One head were not enough.

Found out,
The body refused to move.
I reached for one head
And the other quickly said no.
I reached for the other and
Now the first protested
And when I paused
Both said Yes / Yes and
As if refusing to agree
No / No just as fast.
Propping one head on my shoulders
The other in the basket
Changing heads from time to time
I walked on.

Far into the night I found
The spare head missing.
The one on my shoulders felt sleepy
And as I rubbed the eyes and ears
A pebble rolling under my toes
Disrupted concentration.
Picking it up I threw the pebble
Over my shoulder then waited
For it to hit the ground.
A thud struck the ear but now
An unbearable silence choked the air.
Holding on to sound as to a string
I traced the pebble to where it landed.
The ringing stopped
So I picked up the pebble again
Threw it over the shoulder
Again without aiming and
After doing it several times
Lost all sense of direction.

Knowing where to fall
The pebble took me across the line
Where night meets day and
There the desert ended.


*

Before me stood a cliff
Too high to scale.
I sat down in its shadow
Back against stone
And dozed off.
The sense of being watched
Made me squint
But no one was there.
The unease however persisted and
When I sat up eyes wide open
I glimpsed a shadow
Slip into a fold in stone.

There were steps leading
To the bowels of the cliff
And after climbing for a while
Deep inside the mountain
I came to an iron gate blocking the way.
Behind the bars stood
A figure wrapped in black
Eyes flashing alarm.
I extended my hand in greeting
But now it was she who was
Unpleased to be seen who
Refused to shake my hand.


*

Someone from behind
Threw a blindfold over my eyes
Someone in front took my hand.
Walked by my captors
In widening circles
Stumbling over premonitions
I was lead onto a narrow
Stone spine arching across
An orange-glowing abyss—
Echoes of my footsteps
Plumbing the depths below
The brute force of sound
Strong enough to knock me over
Were I alone.

Then silence.
Fresh air—
We had crossed the mountain underground
But the blindfold was not removed.
Instead
I was told to walk
A straight line by myself.

Blindfolded
I entered the divide between
Two hostile armies facing each other
Ready for a massacre—I
To unleash the fury.

Walking with unnatural caution
I swayed by a hair's breadth and
The tension on the side so favored
Subsided at once while
Tension on the other side
Swelled to bursting.
Steadying myself in time
Now aware that
To walk a straight line was
To exercise impartiality
I proceeded placing one foot
In front of the other
Every step a harrowing reminder of
Imminent instant destruction.
When tension lifted abruptly
I slumped to the ground.


*

Next to my face
Enormous toes—
Two giants
In a wrestler's embrace
Filling up the space in a ring
Of tightly fit megalith stones—
Naked skin glistening
Heads oiled eyes locked
Their faces identical to mine—
A double parody of self
In show-off time.

At first they wrestled amicably
But emboldened by my gaze
They grew in height and girth
Cramming the space inside the circle.
In danger of being trampled
A sparrow underfoot I
I bit their toes shouting
I'd seen enough of whatever
They were trying to prove.

That's when I understood—
The giants were fighting to embrace
And embracing to fight.

A stone-locked voice fell into the ring—
"Choose between the giants
One of them must perish."
The horror of hostile forces fresh
In my gut I shook my head.
"Then give proof that you do not favor
One over the other or
Perish yourself."


*

I sank to my knees
Crossed myself from left to right
Then from right to left.
Touched ground with my forehead
Kissed the earth
Lay prostrate crucified.
Then drew a circle around myself and
Inside the circle all the sacred signs
I could remember to invoke protection
Of all the known and unknown gods.

Ready to face what was to come
I stood up and spread my arms
And my past came to stand by me
On the left
And all to come came to stand
On the right
The past and the future extending
Beyond the horizon.
With a will greater than mine
I pulled the far ends together and
On the other side of the globe
The circle closed.

Shaken by seismic aftershocks
I stood there at once
As small as small will ever be
And as immense
As immense can be—
And therein lay the proof:
The giants were indivisible
Choosing one over the other
Would kill them both.

Relief descending
Step by step the giants shrank in size
But instead of facing each other
They stood now side by side
Staring at me.

"Get me out of here,"
I said at once.
Hearing no response I suggested
"Why don't you grow tall again
And lift me over the stone fence?"
Responding in unison the twins
Reminded me that in order to grow
They have to engage in combat.
Finding nothing worth fighting for
We started chatting
Getting to know each other.

I was leaning against stone
When a whistle in a slit between
Two megaliths caught my attention.
A handful of sand thrown against it
Was sucked to the other side.

Exchanging glances
The twins suggested they cut me
Into slivers and push the pieces
Through the slit.
"And then what?
What is to happen to me
On the other side?" I asked.
The twins had no ready answer
But we agreed that
The body knew how to heal itself—
On the other side
The pieces would come together
In the order they were fed
Into the opening.

The biggest obstacle was my will—
For the plan to succeed
I had to forsake my will
And place myself irrevocably
In the hands of the twins.
Forsake my will?
Was this possible?
If I couldn't rid myself of will
Why not use it to advantage?
Why not apply will to boosting
Trust in their efficiency?

Taking their advice
I stared at the twins long enough
To muster a hefty dose of trust
Then lay down on the ground
Head toward the slit.
Flanked by the twins
The one to cut me up on the left
The one to feed the pieces into stone
On the right
We were ready to proceed.

Under the spell of the most tedious
Most meticulous attention
My body had ever received
I parted with each sliver of flesh
As with a memory that had outlived
Its usefulness.
Not a wisp of pain
Not a drop of blood was spilled.
The thought last to cross my mind was
Ill never be the same again
A soothing a comforting thought.
My destiny in the making
I succumbed to
An encroaching numbness.


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