In a dream I can find a way
to leave. See,
the house on the hill is unreachable—
no heart long enough—
the bus takes me miles down
my own damn turn. Off
then on again. The sign’s
knocked down, the map
a question in my hand:
Can I travel you happy?
Here’s my other hand full
of chocolate kisses for
the stone wall your mouth is.
Home begins / in the mind, a dream // of walking.1
Begin with the feet: the feet
begot by the thought “walk”
a continent dreaming.2 The air
doesn’t mind dis-
each atom, a cathedral of sound.
Sound of songbirds. Silhouettes migrate across the full face of the moon: a count
before radar flocked them. See one, two,… See
exaltations, murmurations, charms. And skeins—honks are song, too. Honky tonk.
Baby’s first kick: the feet breathing. What dreaming
sings its place? Mountain
snow and rain flow to the sea, become amniotic:
amber flush, hummingbird float. Mother,
your hands. My dreaming.
Between the Pacific and the River Mississippi,
a country dreaming.
When the Rockies rose high in the clouds
of Meriwether Lewis’s eyes, hope
was lost for an ocean on the other side.
Endless waves of ridges: charcoal shadings
on a map (never the territory). End of
Jefferson’s water communication dreaming.
The new Great Father came with promise
of trade, peace, a whiskey dreaming.
Plunder: the sin of the father or of the sons
Jack- and John- and Harri-son? How do we name
the red faceless mass? They Who Jump the Bluffs
of the Great Buffalo Runners.
Dead reckoning. Log lines. Paddle strokes. Sleeps. To measure
is to possess. A manifest dreaming. In the mirror
of his sextant, did Lewis see the true horizon,
trees and hills and mountains in the way?
Between his portable horizons and the noonday sun,
between the moon and Antar’s star, a mesh of circles
nets the Earth. A freed/free? world dreaming.
On an evergreen mountainside: one yellow aspen.
October dreaming. Leaves
and sandhill cranes say, Stay
in Colorado. Learn when to trust
the sun, the moon. When they meet in the sky, loaf.
When one hides its eye, keep safe your wings, your feet. We will fly
and die for you.
Keep safe your song: a poem dreaming. Dorothy
Gale watched the blood-red sand nearly run out
down the narrow throat of the hourglass. Repeat,
There’s no place like home. Her feet
a ruby road. (Her dreaming.)
At sea, time is distance, no matter the varying day.
Noon to noon: a meridian dreaming.
When clouds hide the stars, the sun, when
no shadow cast from the ship’s mast darkens
the water, an hourglass marks unseeble arcs. In the turned
globes of his ship’s eighteen hourglasses,
did Ferdinand Magellan see his days pass
to bludgeon, not even his bones circling the Earth?
Birds of paradise told him, Take our wings, our feet.
Arrive at your point of departure. A round world dreaming.
an economical motion in a bird’s arrival
on a limb which will serve as arch
or atrium to the next generation.3
A nest dreaming. In an incubator
in the intensive-care nursery at Booth Memorial Hospital
in Queens, an infant with skin too thin to touch
flaps her pink twiggy arms, her legs—
Mother’s breath a cloudling on the faraway glass.
A cradle of arms dreaming. Thirty years
later, holding her granddaughter, did her breasts swell
warmer than an isolette? The past is
clad in diaper and cap, ear to Mother’s heart, the soothing
smell of milk (a kangaroo-bird dreaming).
Driving west, New York to Colorado, the minutes turn
to miles: Mother, are we there yet? Am I dreaming?
The word home doesn’t know its family
memory dreaming. A grave
the last place to lay the head, a bed
for the ungiven-up ghosts. Before words,
a sentence of bones. A dirge dreaming.
In my brother’s daughter’s cotton panties, a bright red
cresting. New moon dreaming.
Pulled from her mama’s sliced belly, she will
do the rest herself, her way the way
of the meadowlark. A fencepost dreaming.
When she sings, sometimes her father laughs
the unsung call of my father, crushed lungs
passed from man to boy: an anthem dreaming.
My niece’s whistle becomes a flute becomes a sunrise.
All day, I guard her fall, little bird that has broken out
of the egg.4 I guard her dreaming.
Auditioning for my second-grade play, I sang
“Over the Rainbow” from the front of the classroom:
a new Oz dreaming. Soon after That’s wheeere.
Youuu’ll. Fiiind. Meeeeeeeee. screeched from my tiny throat,
my best friend, Wendy, scored the part of Dorothy,
and her best friend, Karen, got Scarecrow. I
became a munchkin, green
in my dyed pillowcase costume, an emerald dreaming.
That spring, I stopped singing. I stopped believing
in the crotched geometries of girls. A circle dreaming.
Explorers triangulate who they are
in relation to what they are not5: mountain,
river, rain, grizzly, savage. A self dreaming.
Had Sacagawea been a white man, how
would Lewis and Clark have claimed their names
after nightfall? Lewiston, Idaho; Clarkston, Washington.
Lewis’s woodpecker, Clark’s nutcracker, and their own
plant genus, Lewisia and Clarkia. A taxonomy of self dreaming.
During a near-capsize in the muddy Missouri River, “the Squar”
saved instruments, medicine, specimens, maps, and the captain’s
journals, so they tried to bind her, too, to the land,
called a “handsome” stream, fifty yards wide, in the middle of Montana,
Bird Woman’s River. A drowned sky dreaming.
If it weren’t for the rocks in its bed, the stream would have no song.6
A babbling dreaming. After the voicebox drops
in the baby’s throat: da-da, da-da, da-da—
becomes “daddy,” “don’t” (or “do”)
like a hatchling’s chirps become birdsong
(or a mating call learned from the father),
like a mammal’s crawl becomes a fleeing
(or a dreaming).
Nightly I pull one card from a tarot deck
that substitutes Water for the suit of Cups:
a clear future dreaming. Each picture
a Navajo sandpainting, a part of the story
—told or sung—to rebalance the Universe.
A microcosm dreaming. Dear Water People:
If I pull the King of Water three times in two weeks,
the Queen twice, and the Knight once, what must be deposed
of the heart, the home? Once phlegmatic, I now gurgle
and blurp, point west with webbed wings. A bird may love
a fish, but where would they build a home together? 7 A Pacific sky dreaming.
Every ocean has its own magnetic address:
sea turtles and salmon remember the imprint
of their early lives, read it to return to their birth-
place: one spawn dreaming. Driving east,
Colorado to New York, the miles turn to memories.
Hard to say what soft belly lives inside
this cracked shell. Half an egg dreaming.
The birds within her
Sang their first song: silence.8
Within the body, seven spirals
of colors, of O-shaped
grief. A thousand wails dreaming.
If I twist and writhe
on the floor of this sorrow,
kick and flail against the plastic
square of air, will someone finally come
and rub me? Will I ever wake up
from this dreaming?
Maybe being winged means being wounded
by infinity, blessed by the ordeal
A broken amnion dreaming. On the therapist’s couch,
regressed to the womb, I am crammed by the weight
of the earth. Will this be the life I finally rest
and rise in, lips to both
ground and sky?
Where we live
Is no place to lose your wings.
So love, love,
A community of clouds dreaming. Here,
in Colorado, lenticular is a standing wave
east-coast ghosts and names. Goodbye,
wet heat and rain. You can love all-
weather friends from afar. You can love all
who share your sky. A globe-
shaped heart dreaming.
1 Christina Davis, from “The Outset,” in Forth a Raven (Farmington, ME: Alice James Books, 2006)
2 The “dreaming” phrases throughout this poem refer to the Dreaming-tracks of Australia’s Aboriginals, as explored in Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines—the invisible roads walked by their nomadic ancestors, sources of personal identity and territorial markers, that sing the world into existence by naming things along the pathways and attaching stories to their sacred places.
3 Kay Ryan, from “Grabbing at Straws,” in Strangely Marked Metal (Providence, RI: Copper Beech Press, 1985)
4 James M. Barrie (1860–1937), Scottish novelist & Peter Pan creator: I’m youth, I’m joy, I’m a little bird that has broken out of the egg.
5 Thomas P. Slaughter, Exploring Lewis and Clark: Reflections on Men and Wilderness (New York: Knopf/Vintage Books, 2003, p. 32)
6 Carl Perkins, interview by Michael Lydon, Rolling Stone, December 1968
7 Tevye, in Joseph Stein’s Fiddler on the Roof
8 David Wagoner, from “The Land Behind the Wind,” in Antaeus, 1981
9 Li-Young Lee, from “The Lives of a Voice, 3. Tethered,” in Behind My Eyes (W.W. Norton & Co., 2008)
10 Hafiz, in “This Sky,” from The Gift (New York: Penguin, 1999)