Small Creatures — A Dream

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“Owl” — C.Birde, 8/17

 

Singly and in pairs, they arrive — men and women, dressed in jewel-toned satin and velvet gowns, in embroidered cravats and dark silk tuxedos. They sweep into the ancient, compact castle — more of a turret, in truth, or a fortress. Clustered in small knots about a great length of dining room table, they bloom against the bare, gray stone floor and walls. Soft conversation flickers with candlelight.

But their arrival is earlier than expected. Unprepared, shake each proffered hand. Kiss signet rings, the backs of smooth wrists. Return each smile, each warm greeting. Hear not one comment, nor one remark regarding disheveled hair, tattered clothing, unwashed odor. Surely, they notice. Kindness stills their tongues; propriety.

At last, the number of arrivals diminishes, ceases. Slip away. Slowly, back towards the small door, that ellipse of wood within stone. Quietly, quietly — ease the door open. Steal through the narrow fissure to enter a small, round stone chamber. Softly, pull the door shut. Lean against it.

Spread across the chamber’s floor — rumpled and crumpled and imbued with blue shadows — is a great sweep of strewn white cloth. To the left of the closed door, a stone staircase sweeps upward, follows the tight curve of the turret’s exterior wall. Set foot on the bottommost step. Notice the white cloth shiver and move. A kitten – small, gray-and-white, with the short stand-up tail of the newly born — wriggles out from the fabric’s folds. Mewing, comically determined, it follows along behind, up the steps.

Climb. Five steps. Six. Seven. With the kitten directly behind. See, at eye-level on the steps ahead, a frantic blur of yellow motion. A fledgling canary with curiously long feathers. Scoop the bird up – out of the kitten’s reach. Feel the brush of soft feathers, the tick of small talons against skin. Watch the canary lift up, flutter out and away. Its extraordinarily long wing- and tail-feathers flow like ribbons of sunlight. Over the kitten. Down the steps. To safety.

Continue climbing. Arrive at another small, wooden door. Push. Beyond it, find a circular room with high-vaulted ceiling. White porcelain sink and toilet and bathtub gleam against gray stone walls and floor. A single window stares out into darkness. Across the room, a narrow, arched doorless exit leads down a corridor… Cross the room. Step into that arch of stone-darkened throat. Set hands on a small gate, draw it out from the wall — a makeshift barrier that will lend privacy to the bath.

Again, movement. There, further down the corridor, emerging from the dark — a tall, trim man. Dressed in soft brown tweeds. A bulge beneath his jacket and vest. Approach carefully, step toward him. Peer — curious, eyes squinting — at the lump caught gently, safely against his breast, buttoned up beneath the tweed vest. See a small, smooth-feathered crown; wide gold eyes within a heart-shaped face — a barn owl.

Listen as the man explains: Out on the darkened lawn, far below the castle, five shapes lay motionless as shadow. Each a barn owl — four young, one adult. All but he had passed by, oblivious. None but he had taken note, gone to investigate. Had found one young owl alive amongst the five.

From the deep vee opening of the man’s vest, see the barn owl blink. Smitten, reach out. Stroke the smooth, white-feathered head. Feel the sharp clench and wrench of heart.

 

— C.Birde, 8/17

 

Whales and Wailing — A Dream

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“Whales & Wailing” — C.Birde, 8/17

 

The building is a single story, squat and square with walls made entirely of windows. Situated on the beach, it stares blindly over the great, gray stretch of ocean. Lace-edged waves lap and curl against the sandy shore. All seems tranquil, quiet. Stand before the barrier windows, though, hands pressed to the glass; glance left – the serenity is broken. A killer whale is caught in the shallow water, breached. Taut, sleek ,black and white skin runs with seawater. A pectoral fin lists skyward. The large mouth, arrayed with rows of sharp teeth, hangs slack – a shadowed pink cavern.

Howl an animal cry. For the waste of life. For the selfishness. For callous business decisions and profit margins that disregard the larger picture. For the tangled and interconnected web in which we are all a part. For compassionless, human hubris.

Howl again, in anguish while all those surrounding continue, unpreturbed, with their individual tasks. Heads bent over papers and devices, they remain unaware, detached. Unconcerned for the great creature’s suffering and passing; unmoved by the strangled human wail that issues from amidst their own.

All but one. She approaches. A little girl, wide-eyed and concerned. How old – eight, nine, ten? She feels it, too. The grief. The suffering. But her hand is firm, her touch warm. Her very presence anchors, halves the pain.

Cling to her. Don’t let go. Fight it. Together.

 

— C.Birde, 8/17

 

 

Capture — A Dream

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“Capture” — C.Birde, 7/17

 

Wrestle him to the ground. Feel the hard bite of blacktop on hips, shoulders, elbows. Knuckles rasp and bleed. Bruises form. These facts are fleeting, unimportant. Scuffle and roll. Work to pry the camera from his grip. This is no easy task, for Alec Baldwin is determined – and large. But the camera isn’t his; it belongs to the little girl. She mourns its loss, boards the bus with her mother, weeping. The bus idles for a moment at the curb, signals blinking, tailpipes emitting smoke.

Prize the camera from Baldwin’s hands, and rise triumphant, sweating and panting. Watch the bus pull away. It chugs down the street, slowly gathers speed. Must return the camera to the little girl. Jump onto another bus before its accordion doors can close. Stand on the steps in the open doorway. Right hand clutches the camera. Left hand grasps the metal handhold, cool and smooth to the touch. Lean past the doorway, through the narrow gap into the open air.

Slowly, the bus gathers speed. Breeze whips against flesh, tangles hair. Squint to see. Velocity increases in increments – thirty miles an hour, forty, fifty-five, seventy-five. The camera’s lens cap careens wildly against its black nylon tether, cracks against ulna and radius. Cling to camera and handhold both. Remain anchored. Do not lose hope. Even as traffic lights interfere with pursuit. Even as the distance between buses yawns and increases. Reunion of camera and girl is guaranteed. Success is imminent.

 

— C.Birde, 7/17

 

Mirages — A Poem

 

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“Expectation” — C.Birde, 8/2/17

 

Shrill summer —

heady spell of drama,

pushed and pulled

to extremes.

A full-throated

shout

of heat and light and

expectation,

swollen

beyond tolerance.

Cicadas rehearse

their one-note

chorus,

and sparrows leave

shallow depressions

beneath the hedge

to mark

their baths of dust.

Disconnected,

we hide and bemoan

the heat,

impoverished time,

our stillborn

dreams.

 

— C.Birde, 8/2/17

 

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“Dust Bath” — C.Birde, 8/2/17

 

Out of Time — A Dream

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“Out of Time” — C.Birde, 6/17

 

Dated. Faded. Dull. The hotel room, though clean, desperately needs an update. Carved, shag carpet. Once-modernist, flocked wallpaper. Matching coverlets spread over twin Formica beds. And red. So many shades of red – scarlet, crimson, burgundy. The room glowers, sullen and ruddy.

Across from the beds, an old television cart holds a large tube-style black-and-white TV. The set is switched on, and an old film flickers. Images of staircases cover the screen. Crossing and intersecting each other at impossible angles, each seems to have its own dimensional reality, similar to an M.C. Escher work. A woman, with tumbling long hair, dressed in long, dark gown descends one of the staircases. As I watch, my sense of origin slips. For a breath, for a moment – I am that woman, caught in a flickering black-and-white world, descending a shadowed staircase within a repeating landscape of tilting, dim-lit staircases. I clutch a handful of gown, lift it up to avoid tripping on the hem. I hear the soft tread of my slippers on the unyielding stone steps. I feel the weight of my hair.

Noise. A saving, sudden sound, and I am yanked back, find myself standing within the red room, staring at the television. During my brief…absence?… a repairman has entered. He has set his toolbox on the sunset, shag carpet at the foot of one bed, spread his tools across the other bed’s coverlet.

“Those old movies give me the heebie jeebies,” he says. “Especially the monster ones – vampires and werewolves.” He catches my eye and shudders dramatically. “Good thing you’ve got company…” He jerks his head approvingly toward the far wall and continues sorting his tools.

From that further, narrow wall, where there is neither door, nor window, a steady stream of people begins to enter. The small space is soon crowded with bodies and chatter. The last to arrive is a life-sized cartoon-style Popeye, complete with pipe, flexing bulging biceps and chewing spinach.

All the while, the television’s grainy images continue to flicker and snow.

— C.Birde, 6/17

 

An Earful — A Dream

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“An Earful” — C.Birde, 6/17

 

…And then, that distinguished gentleman, with his unruly fringe of white floss hair, in his pert bow tie and professorial brown tweeds, gave an inarticulate shout. He began to list over against his will, despite his best efforts to remain upright and erect, pulled by the increased weight and drag of his rapidly growing right ear. The organ expanded –from the size of a tea saucer, to that of a luncheon plate, a dinner plate, until, at last, it exceeded the size of a tea service tray. The elderly gentleman flailed his arms in wide, wild gestures, drawn earthward in a fashion that demanded he balance on one leg. “The mice! The mice!” he cried out. And from the auditorium’s wings dashed several young men in dark blue suits brandishing tweezers and chopsticks. In a wave, they surged toward the professor’s side and maneuvered about his enormous right ear in complex choreography – some moved to the rear and grasped him about the hips and shoulders to prevent the aged man from falling; others leapt to his left side and applied themselves to his raised left arm as ballast; while those remaining drew their particular tools and, with obvious care and practice, inserted them into the enlarged ear’s broad canal and withdrew, again and again, compact wads of soft gray matter. The young men flung aside the accumulated mouse-like wads with flicks of their supple wrists.

And all who witnessed gaped, astonished and astounded and – while endeavoring to preserve the tweed-suited gentleman’s threadbare dignity – visibly appalled.

 

The Endless Up — A Dream

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“The Endless Up” — C.Birde, 5/17

 

Climbing, climbing. The cement stairs – smooth underfoot, uniform – rising on and on, up and up, switching and curving back and forth in deceptively lazy sweeps, but ever, always up. Over varying landscapes – green forests, sunny glades, rolling hills; spanning lakes and rivers to continue their ascent. Eventually, leaving behind the wild, primordial, and untouched places. Trees transforming to steel I beams; hills to bricks and cinderblocks; waterways to chain link fences. Crowded now. People moving, elbow-to-elbow, hip to shoulder, climbing separately en masse.

The stairs continuing, lifting up into the wide blue, cloud-filled sky. Gradually, each step narrowing – two or three feet wide only. No security of enclosing walls. No handrails. A Dali-esque staircase rising, lifting, floating with no need of supports, anchored unto itself.

Unease creeping in. Worry. Fear of slipping, tripping – a misplaced foot, an endless plunge.

While the stairs are still connected, fastened to a small island of green turf, stepping off the stairs. Entering an enclosed, factory-style, industrial warehouse. Gloom and shadow, here. Feeble light leaking past smudged, yellowed windows.

Bustle of activity – people crouching over desks and counters, faces lit blue by computer screens. Interrupting first one young woman, then another. Neither looking up from their display, their skin washed pale with electric light. Their answers are the same.

There is no way back down.

There is no other stairway.

It is one-way only.

 

— C.Birde, 5/17