Emily Linstrom


     We are such stuff as dreams are made on—are dreams, therefore, the stuff of us?
     I stood in a miner’s shack, that much I knew. The space was littered with crockery and rockers, the walls pasted up with newspaper clippings and faded needlepoint: Welcome. An ominous kind of homey, like so many dream coordinates. 
     A yellow bird swung softly in its cage, singing. The sweetness of it startled me, the only hint of beauty about the place. I reached in and took it out, gave it a perch on my index finger. 
     Then, for no reason—indiscernible, unholy reason—I bit off the little bird’s head.
     There was only a minor protest, the flutter of wings not unlike a lady waving away a tea cake. No thank you, I shall not build a nest in your mouth today.
     It was as if it didn’t mind the assault—inconvenienced perhaps, but hardly perturbed. I was horrified at what I’d done. 
     I placed it back in its cage and watched as it hopped about, a winged husk and nothing more. Handicapped but hardly clumsy, its tiny trill still filled the air of that ramshackle piece of hell.
     We are never free from our sins. They seep into our sleep, our dreams, manifest themselves in unimaginable metaphors and personifications. Hope—Emily Dickinson’s thing with feathers that perches in the soul—reduced to the state and stature of a creature born innocent then callously mutilated. I hate myself for that act within a dream world, for my equally bizarre behavior in this one. 
     Am I like Boris Karloff’s monster from Frankenstein, offering the little girl a flower before ending her? Is there a vice versa? 
     Is the bird fool & freak for not struggling, pecking at my teeth against a fate gone horribly awry? 
     Is forgiveness truly the mark of enlightenment, a grace so often mistaken for weakness, an opportunity for repeated deception? 
     Perhaps we are all canaries in the coal mine, circling the dark caverns of conscience. The Tommyknockers and their ugly tune—an alarm to awaken.
     And so I did.