My Mother Reads From Her Dream Journal
We—you, me, and your sisters—are in a room the size of a broom closet and you say to me What do I do with this jellyfish? and I don’t understand but there, yes, you have it in your hands and it’s glowing off and on and you hold it up to me almost crying and that’s it.
Someone is calling me to come outside but when I pull back the curtains to make sure it’s safe there’s no one there and then I blink and there he is: luminous, grinning, right in my face at the window and I scream but feel completely calm soon after—I don’t remember if you or anyone else is there; I step out, empty.
Your father is running through a field without horizons and I am running after him as all of this falls to the ground around us from out of the sky: a three-legged horse, a crate spilling saltwater, an orchid, a man-of-war, a satellite, the horse’s stable.
You and I are on a beach watching dolphins breach near the horizon and we’re laughing so hard my stomach muscles start to spasm and I wake up catching my breath and wetting myself.
It’s the morning of the day I’ve decided to tell my parents I’m gay and I’m in the kitchen gripping the cordless while Greta takes a shower and I can hear her singing through the pipes and my leg starts to burn and soon my arm, too, so hot I can’t hold the phone anymore and I realize I’m completely paralyzed, frozen, my body stiffening, the light streaming in through the window suddenly algae-green—the light pulses and I try to scream and can’t, tell myself to wake up several times before I’m able.
I’m a seahorse, I’m a manatee, I’m a sting ray—I’m a whole school of fish maneuvering around a jetty. And then I become a pulsing tendril, and then a beam of light, and then only a feeling: terror, exultation, something formless in between.
Intimacy was the referee counting
so close to your head you could feel his breath
against your cheek and let the seismic shocks
of his hand bapping the mat
rattle your brain.
You never wrestled with your eyes open,
psyching out the others, who relied
too much on the staredown before the whistle.
Then they got it. You were no different.
Same ridiculous second-skin spandex,
same jock itch, same dad signaling wild as fire
from the risers, invectives falling
through the sweat-heavy gym like crows
with leaden wings.
And if you were the same, you were just
as pinnable—in fact, you seemed to welcome it,
going limp as a lover in their arms
when they touched you. How gorgeous
those boys were, how balletic every meet.
The count to three, the hand coming down
like the hammer of a just-oiled pistol.