Dogs and horses were roaming free
along the perimeters of sleep.
Children took the bodies of the babies
into their hands –
caressing them, calling them their own.
The one with the pop eyes of a boston terrier
wore a big black felt hat,
like a gaucho.
The others called him “Daddy”.
He rode his bicycle
up and down the street
in front of the house,
dodging raindrops
and reciting the names
of the neighborhood kids
like a mantra or an ancient alphabet.

The children chased the horses
across the lawn,
green in the Spring air.
Voices faded in and out,
crackling like a bad connection.
Distant music like a mist swirled
then settled into a dull drowsy drone.
The dogs had gone now.
The children had claimed them,
named them, and lead them away.
The horses had gathered
under the sweetgum tree.
They circled like a carousel,
changing colors as they bobbed
up and down –
black to brown to blue
to green to gold to black
and back again again,
as Daddy rode by waving
along the edge of waking.

“Dream” is printed here today with permission from the poet.

W.I. Stoneberger recently reached the half-century mark. Within days of this momentous event; his hair and teeth began to fall out, his eyesight grew fuzzy around the edges, and his skin sighed and sagged like a Sher Pei. He lives with a herd of gray squirrels in Newport News, Virginia. They have been perfecting their rodeo skills, and hope to soon take the show across the bridge to Suffolk – Peanut Capital of the World./span>

Editor’s Note: It takes less than a line for a poem to charm me. “Dream,” you had me at “ancient alphabet.” I want to dunk crackers in “ancient alphabet” soup while baking a batch of “ancient alphabet” cookies. Once the cookies are done perhaps we can discuss Daddy. Would the neighborhood kids disappear if Daddy stopped reciting their names “like a mantra or an ancient alphabet?” Or is he something ancient and nearly forgotten himself, “waving/ along the edge of waking?”

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  1. Deborah says:

    Love this, especially the first lines. While it’s called dream, to me it captures that state right before falling asleep when your mind wanders all kinds of pastures. Presleep, predream. The narrative follows a straighter line, for me, but I still never remember it.

  2. Sivan Butler-Rotholz says:

    There is a kind of near-creepiness in this poem that one rarely experiences outside a dream or a film. Were I to have woken up from this dream, I’d be glad to be awake, but in awe of the journey my mind had just managed to take me on. I also agree with Deborah, that there is an element of mind-wandering akin to the time between wakefulness and sleep. I have a friend who becomes physically paralyzed during that period of time and has waking terrors. This poem reminds me of my own idea of that sensation. And you, Lezlie? “Ancient alphabet soup?” You are brilliant and I would like to sit down and catch up with you over a bowl of said soup.

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