7 March 2007
You are dreaming of stairs in a darkened house.
Your broken thumb is throbbing with pain.
You listen for the squeaking of a door,
and move slowly across the carpeted floor,
remembering Kwai Chang Caine on rice paper,
but also seeing monsters in the corners,
and in the darkness at the foot of the stairs:
Freaks, monsters, and human curiousities --
as if normality was more than illusion --
come alive in imagination's sideshow.
If you are dreaming, why can't you wake up?
A faint light glimpsed coming from the left below
brings the possibility of redemption,
dream or no dream.
After all, the world is never what it seems to be,
and any light, however dim, is hope's foundry.
You were always the optimistic one,
reading Cinderella like biography,
believing that one day father would come home
smiling, happy, bearing all sorts of gifts.
explaining that he'd just lost his way
for a few inconsequential years.
Mother told you, sweetheart, you need to wake up,
smell the coffee, or something like that.
I drink my coffee fresh roasted and black,
but you always said it tasted vile.
You like herbal tea, chamomile and lemon grass,
and while I was always in a hurry, drinking fast,
you would sip slowly, wanting to chat, or read.
Clutching the bannister, you walk down the stairs.
Knees beginning to squiver, the stairs give way
to a hardwood floor. You search for the light,
that dim pin prick hide and seek light
that left you the dead dark and creaking floor boards,
pretty much the same way your husband left you
when one day he woke up and realized
the only wall between him and paradise
could be easily breached with a cheap motorcycle.
Even then you remained optimistic,
talking about how it would be good for him
to have finally taken the initiative,
to have strapped on those leather boots and leather jacket.
Never mind, it did not quite comport
with the vegan lifestyle he had proselytized,
convincing you to make those eggless cookies,
and every Saturday you made those cookies
as if the smell would bring him home.
It is so dark you can't see your hands,
but your thumb is wailing agony.
When we were children, you would sing to me,
and I would forget about the monsters
hiding under the bed and in the closet
or waiting just outside the window.
To this day I can hear you singing,
lying in bed, wrapped in a blanket.
You walked on through the tangle of blackness,
reaching out with your good hand, nothing nothing.
If you wanted to go back to the stairs,
how could you in this nothingness?
Mother never had much confidence in you.
She once said you don't shit from shinola,
but we'd looked at each other and burst into laughter.
She didn't seem to know what she'd said.
You hear the whine of a door open slowly.
Our cousin, Junebug, always laughed at your corny jokes,
so you thought you could be a stand-up comic
and you found an old tape recorder
with one of those fat microphones
and for several days you practiced
until mother took the mic and the recorder
and told you to stop wasting your time.
If this is a dream, it's sure lasting a long time.
And then you see the light, just a tiny light
but it is like water in a vast desert.
Footsteps, not yours, coming up from behind
and you will yourself forward, keep moving.
This is not a dream.
This is not a dream.
I am in the waiting room
and this is not a dream.
Looking in the mirror at infinity,
I see what you see. We are one
as the light opens up and floods the room
and the high pitched whine of flatlining
spills out into the hallway, where footsteps beat
a hasty rhythm to our door.
© 2007, Satya J. Gabriel