Henri-Edmond Cross, Landscape with Stars, ca. 1905–1908, watercolor over graphite on white wove paper, 9 5/8″ x 12 5/8″.
Karen Fish’s poem “The Dreams” appeared in our Winter 1989 issue.
Night arrives solid and heavymore than several blocks long—to displaceits weight and float like a tanker over us.It is because my husband is from the midwestthat he dreams of twisters. Every Springin his head he is running to beat the wind.Sometimes, a child againhe is at the diningroom table over-seeingan arrangement of baseball cards andinterrupting that satisfied moment, a sudden darkness,false night. It is as if the moon slid its facein front of the sun and beyond the window—leaves,limbs, garbage can lids fly by—horizontal, gravityseeming 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 placedback down on its own foundation.This is Power—indiscriminate, unexpected—slicingthe 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 torun 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 EastI 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 behindMoses 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 lightand turned to water.In the distance the funnel unhitches from its backdrop of hillsand we watch it skate across the fields of the Amish.We are stopped on the dirt road, frozen as everythingaround us unlatches and shakes—convulses in the wind.Suddenly, the color fades from the scene, this is black-and-whitelike any good science fiction show.Trees fall to their knees, huge broccoli tops.There is the strange lane of destruction, the flattenedchicken coop, the neighbor’s mobile home shreddedlettuce 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 undressedof illusion, frail, the line of destruction crazy, a zig-zag path.One side havoc and on the other side, nothingbut the unbraided cornfield.
The numerals of darkness fade between the houses.And just as the lover is supposed to mirrorthe loved and vice versa—just as my past is histhis is the ultimate primitive ceremony, beyond theexchanging of rings—taking on the other’s fearsand living them as your own nightmareunder the vaulted sky,the sun advancing to declare the day.
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