What I Used To Dream

Here’s something I wrote for a friend a couple years ago. She has kindly allowed me to share it here.

This is for her, for my daughters, and for all daughters. 

 

father

What I Used To Dream

I used to dream
of rambling pastures in the summertime
emerald grass tickling my knees as I gamboled through
collecting butterfly weed and goldenrod and morning glory
to tuck away in the crease above my ear
and to share with you

I sat in the shade of the bur oak
telling stories to myself
knowing you were standing somewhere
between the old wire fence and the titian sun
your tall, severe silhouette punching a black hole in the evening horizon
watching over me

I felt you grunt and sigh
as you stooped down on one knee to meet me where I slept
the itch your goodnight kiss left on my forehead
and the bristle in your whisper when you granted me sweet dreams
I didn’t feel safe, because I’d never known otherwise
I just felt you

I dreamed of long canters in the spring
down along the bank of Rock Creek
my little champagne filly and your blue roan
you’d let me ride lead ’til the air turned crisp
then we’d amble back to the house toward supper
and I’d look for our faces in the clouds
I’d always find you there

I sat cross-legged with the others around the hearth
my heart beating to your steadfast meter
punctuated by the rustling of the fire
the echo of strange hymns still dancing above us
as you read from the secret pages of that august black book
and taught the boys what a man should be, and us a woman
your voice was a promise

I felt you tremble
as you led me down the aisle
the itch your goodbye kiss left on my cheek
and the authority in your voice when you gave me to him
the protector worthy to take your place
I didn’t feel safe, because I’d never known otherwise
I just felt you

O but I’d never dreamed of this

I’d never dreamed
all those wildflowers I’d collected, to share with you
were a bride price I had owed
that when you stood watching over, against the sun
I was the danger you perceived
that when you whispered sweet dreams into my yielding ear
you were exorcising my perversions

I’d never dreamed
that when your face formed in the clouds of heaven
you were looking down on me
that when you taught me what a woman was
you’d traced the outline of a victim
that the tremble you gave when you gave me away
was one of relief and shame
that the feeling I felt when I felt you near me
was subjection, not protection

Now I sit in the shade of the bur oak
trying not to fall asleep
begging my shadow not to let me dream
of you and my protector, towering behind me
between the old wire fence and the titan sun
tall, severe silhouette punching a black hole in the cold horizon
bearing my body into its orbit
where there is no air to breathe
and from which no light escapes

Now there is no pasture, now no faith
I am betrayed in my very marrow
for I dream now what I used to dream
and awake in terror

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