A Child's Nightmare
Inside a hurricane wind
I saw the white sun iris
and the small dark spot that is
the center of the storm's eye.
I entered the vast dream,
a loose cell smaller than
a lost jewel in a far field,
and beheld a bloom of angels
descending in a body of smoke
near a blood-red stream.
I emerged among warped
white bodies of Chirico
statues on a chessboard plain,
Captain William grinning
as he cut the scalp of a dog.
"This is my game," he said,
"a little croquet with the queen."
Then he pulled the fresh brain free,
and dropped it to his teeth.
Lured by a jeering voice,
I wandered in an orchard maze
through a violet haze of heat
and joined a long procession
entering a vine-draped cave
where arms of wind arose
from a black suburnal stream
deep flowing fast and falling
into a wide blind mouth.
A lively spirit dancing down
took me through the twisted
roots descending in the vault.
"Beginnings bear the seed,"
she said in a blue volt voice,
"of everything to come."
And she cast me in the deep,
where I fell and reached,
and held to a ragged web
above the gulf of an abyss,
staring into the fiery heart,
a child before its maker.
Smoke from a passing truck curls
over the hedgerow as I watch
the girl in perpetual motion
swing back and forth beneath
the elm tree behind her house.
With their shades always drawn
and wind ticking int he screens,
I wonder what she sees
inside, nightly, an only child
with parents who won't allow
her to return my wave, who
shuttle her in the back of a van
and keep her bound by invisible hands
wrapped around their corner lot.
I imagine inside her home
a mother and father with advantages
but no luck, looking on with fault-
finding eyes gone cold by a grinding
sense of the shortage of money,
the living room a grim echo
of their unspoken thoughts,
a mantle clock scything away,
rows of mysterious ancestors stone
still in photographs on the walls.
Her room is perfect, and she checks
her chores on a weekly list.
She will not speak unless bid to.
Never have I seen a friend come over,
never has she gone to the nearby field.
She climbs instead upon her swing,
nudged into movement by the wind,
riding with her legs stretched
out in the surge of her body's power,
hands gripped into the braids of rope,
some urge drawing her higher
and higher and her face turns to sky.
She pushes from her tethered arc
up through the arms of the elm,
and the neighbor's dog runs after her,
the whisper of a house falling back
as she ascends through pale leaves
in waves of individual flames.
And I see her free above the city,
beyond all luck in a wild current,
riding a storm that rips the clouds
and plunges all homes into darkness.
Nightly she rises, parents wandering,
calling through the trees, but never
looking up to see her high overhead,
turning in a lathe of stars.
Douglas Cole has had work in The Chicago Quarterly Review, Red Rock Review, and Midwest Quarterly. He has more work available online in The Adirondack Review, Salt River Review, and Avatar Review, as well as recorded stories in Bound Off and The Baltimore Review. He has published two poetry collections, Interstate, through Night Ballet Press and Western Dream, with Finishing Line Press, as well as a novella called Ghost with Blue Cubicle Press. He has received several awards, including the Leslie Hunt Memorial Prize in Poetry; the Best of Poetry Award from Clapboard House; First Prize in the "Picture Worth 500 Words" from Tattoo Highway; as well as an honorable mention from Glimmer Train. He was also recently the featured poet in Poetry Quarterly. He is currently on the faculty at Seattle Central College.