They woke (how had they slept?)
to find there was wilderness wildness.
Surely this was no place they knew. Searched
for the place they remembered from before.
How had this happened?
Weeping, everywhere such weeping.
How could they not have heard not seen such destruction arriving?
All the colors in the palette had shifted; so much was painted wrong--
and now, who could read the shapes of the clouds?
Recall the clarity of rain?
They no longer recognized their own skin
but beneath their ribs they suspected
fissures in their hearts
now beating fast with fear.
“I want you to tell me it will be okay,” she says.
“That things will be better soon.”
And he does. But he wishes
it were not so cold
and the sky were a different color.
“I need you to tell me--before I ask,” she says,
“that when it comes we will know what to do.”
He wants to believe
that already it is a little warmer,
that a faint light rims the edge
of the blood-dark sky.
of jeweled meanings,
their razored fins
and scalpelled gills
in a frenzy of elusive propulsion,
thwarting clumsy attempts
to convey the fierce cry of their colors,
to articulate the ache of their shapes,
to give voice to their tempest of motion
as they slip and swarm beneath the surface,
their mocking mouths filled
with precise intent.
He has returned from the hospital—a modest but urgent surgical procedure— and she is working to make things smooth. Smoothing his sick bed, making him soft meals, speaking to him in pastel tones. But there is an uncertainty in the room: neither of them is sure what has been modified or removed. He moves stiffly. When he looks at her his eyes are dark, fixed. The days go by. She makes adjustments, waits. Soon it is apparent things have not been put back together correctly. Seams do not seem to be holding, and loose threads trail from room to room. Cracking the eggs, she tells herself there must be other operations to address this sort of thing.
English Teacher's Recurring Post-retirement Dream
They come now and then
the dreams good teachers know too well.
You’ve confused your days, forgotten to show up.
Maybe you’re naked, or wearing no shoes.
A student, somewhere on the spectrum, reacts
to another’s gun.
And last night, this one:
Time for class. Everyone in their places
wearing expectant faces but
you’re not prepared.
No lesson plan,
your head empty as the whiteboard
of what you once claimed to know--
why Dickinson dressed in black,
why Thoreau went to the woods,
why Melville chose the whale,
and Shakespeare relied on fools.
All eyes on you.
They read your unease, wait for a cue.
Feet shuffle silence;
tension navigates the room
like a stream around a sharp stone.
They’ve so much to learn, you think,
more than you used to know. Already late
and nothing to give, you offer a meal (from where,
you’re not sure; it’s a dream after all).
They’re puzzled of course, but you urge them to
eat. It’s important, you say, so they do,
sharing the feast till everyone’s fed. Then you ask them
to write. Just write what they like—not the food,
you explain, but what’s important to them.
We all need to be fed, but to write we need more,
you say as you wake,
shaken and sad, afraid
you weren’t clear, or
they just didn’t hear,
or they’ll never remember.