Karen Fish’s poem “The Dreams” appeared in our Winter 1989 issue.
Night arrives solid and heavy
more than several blocks long—to displace
its weight and float like a tanker over us.
It is because my husband is from the midwest
that he dreams of twisters. Every Spring
in his head he is running to beat the wind.
Sometimes, a child again
he is at the diningroom table over-seeing
an arrangement of baseball cards and
interrupting that satisfied moment, a sudden darkness,
false night. It is as if the moon slid its face
in front of the sun and beyond the window—leaves,
limbs, garbage can lids fly by—horizontal, gravity
seeming to nap.
He hears his dead father’s cough from the front room,
his father’s slippers hit the floor and rush for the screen door.
A garage three-doors-down is lifted,
picked up and turned ninety degrees and placed
back down on its own foundation.
This is Power—indiscriminate, unexpected—slicing
the afternoon in half.
Other nights, he finds himself an adult,
memory so accurate that it is surreal,
his first wife’s walk, his mother’s blouse,
his nephew’s first dirty word.
He is always racing against the odds—trying to
run fast through knee deep water,
hide in a cellar,
close a blown window,
latch a gate,
the funnel-cloud eating a path toward him.
The other night, I had a dream and being from the East
I have never thought about what a tornado could undo—
the sky turned green along a cliff of clouds.
Green like the queer pea-soup haze painted-in behind
Moses in the childhood Bible.
My husband and I were in the country, under this high sky.
And in this dream we were living in the farmhouse.
He was with me in my former life.
The winter wheat shimmered, grasped the draining light
and turned to water.
In the distance the funnel unhitches from its backdrop of hills
and we watch it skate across the fields of the Amish.
We are stopped on the dirt road, frozen as everything
around us unlatches and shakes—convulses in the wind.
Suddenly, the color fades from the scene, this is black-and-white
like any good science fiction show.
Trees fall to their knees, huge broccoli tops.
There is the strange lane of destruction, the flattened
chicken coop, the neighbor’s mobile home shredded
lettuce on the lawn.
We are untouched, the barn proud.
And here, I see the world for what it is—
see the scene my lover sees and fears—the world undressed
of illusion, frail, the line of destruction crazy, a zig-zag path.
One side havoc and on the other side, nothing
but the unbraided cornfield.
The numerals of darkness fade between the houses.
And just as the lover is supposed to mirror
the loved and vice versa—just as my past is his
this is the ultimate primitive ceremony, beyond the
exchanging of rings—taking on the other’s fears
and living them as your own nightmare
under the vaulted sky,
the sun advancing to declare the day.