Separate Waters — A Dream

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“Separate Waters” — C.Birde , 11/18

 

The bridge extends.

Below, to either side,

in frantic haste,

wide waters part.

We stride

in confidence,

reach the midpoint of the span

and cross beyond…

When,

in headlong rush,

the tides return,

frilled with crashing

foam…

His name lodged in my throat,

upon my lips;

in fear,

I cry aloud

for his steadying hand…

Out of reach…

beyond reach…

A fury of water collapses, collides,

consumes my voice, my limbs,

my life.

A thunder of water

separates.

A wall of water

divides.

 

— C.Birde, 11/18

 

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Wood and Water — A Dream

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“Wood and Water” — C.Birde, 2/18

 

The canoe slides noiselessly through the river. Beneath lily pads and water lettuce, the water is astonishingly clear. Stare down to the river’s bed — observe the passage of soft-tumbled stones pressed into fine silt. Shift of focus — see in stead the pattern of complex reflections tremble against the water’s surface.

Trees huddle to left and right — thick, green, lush, they define what once must have been the river’s slope-shouldered banks. The river, though, has swollen to claim large portions of the wood. Even midstream, trees lift themselves skyward – roots and trunks knuckle up through shallow water; while bark, worked in layered shapes and soft colors, peels slowly away from those wooded torsos. Dip the oars and navigate the canoe around these, with care.

Reach a hand out, over the canoe’s edge. Trail fingers through the water and touch an up-thrust, thick-gnarled root. The entire tree shivers, disintegrates, crumbles away. Fibrous bits and splinters drift and spiral down through the water, sift and settle to dust the stones nested within the riverbed below.

 

Moon Washed — A Dream

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“Moon Washed” — C.Birde, 5/17

 

So many steps. Never-ending. A sloping descent through an enclosed, featureless stairwell of smooth plaster walls, and smooth risers barely scuffed with use. Deeply-layered shadows are peeled away by a soft light of unknown origin.

I’ve lost count of the steps, how many I’ve taken; but this neither frustrates nor alarms. It’s an easy descent – my legs do not ache, my heart and lungs do not protest. One step after another, I follow the stairs further. Deeper. Ever downward. My footfalls echo and pulse.

At length, a faint glow of light blooms below, gilds the stair treads. At the base of the stairs is an open doorway. Beyond this, lies a large lake which seems to fall off and over the night sky’s horizon. Above the lake, casting its reflection over the water’s still surface, floats the moon – so full, so enormous, it consumes all that is visible from the doorway’s threshold.

Unable to proceed forward, I stand and marvel at the moon – it swims easily through both air and water, while both elements impede my own progress. The sky is far outside my earthbound reach, and the lake, though it reflects the moon so beautifully, seems to swirl beneath the surface with motes and particles of murky origin.

And then, I am thrust forward and out, propelled into the water. Someone has pushed me – I felt his hand pressed against the small of my back, the thrust of momentum. Arms out-flung, fingers grasping at the night air, toes searching for any foothold, I pitch forward. The moon’s fluid reflection ripples and breaks beneath my fall.

The lake receives me.

Kicking toward the surface, I emerge, sluicing water. The water is lovely – clear, comfortable, the perfect temperature. Sweet on my tongue. Buoyant. Supportive. There is nothing murky here. All is clear.

Through moonlight and water, I am bathed anew.

 

Causeway — A Dream

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“Causeway” — C.Birde, 1/17

 

The bus idles in a shallow sputter compared to the ocean’s voice. Though I sit all the way at the back of the bus, I can see easily over the empty rows of seats to the front. My uncle sits behind the wheel. I’m astounded. He intends to drive us over the causeway. That narrow, paved road built on a raised ridge of sand that stretches perilously out into the ocean and uncurls out of sight over the great, gray expanse of shifting water. Doesn’t he remember the last time?

Perhaps he does not. Perhaps he doesn’t care.

Determined not to cry, I press my forehead against the window’s cold glass, try to stare past the hungry waves. The ocean stirs and mutters and threatens my resolve. When my tears come, they are near silent, wracking.

I remember.

Tires humping over asphalt. The ocean, lying in wait, in duplicity. Waves gathering, retreating, rearing up into the sky. Those peculiar shadows cast by roiling seawater – volatile, changeable, transparent, then opaque. Thunderous crash of those falling waves. Creak and groan of too-thin metal, caving. Delicate chime and tinkle of splintering glass. Understanding the ocean’s resolve as it tumbled limbs, sucked at flesh. Its intent of pulling all into its watery center.

Choking sting of salt water.

Rapidly, I blink away tears when I hear her voice, lift my head from against the window. Turning, I am surprised to see she sits a row or two ahead of me – my friend. She has taken up my cause, gently suggested a logical case for avoiding the causeway, for finding an alternative route. Her rationale is so tactful, so persuasive and balanced, my uncle soon agrees with its wisdom as if it had been his own all along. He cuts the bus’s engine and gets out his maps.

Meanwhile, my friend catches my eye and smiles. She has accomplished what I would certainly have been scorned and belittled for. The causeway’s threat – of being washed away, swallowed whole, drowned – is vanquished. My relief overwhelms me.

Inversion — A Dream

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“Inversion” — C.Birde, 12/16

 

The gold-tone banister I hold is rubbed to a smooth patina and warm beneath my hand. One slow step at a time, I climb. My skirt is white and gauzy as sea-foam, but far too long, as is the fringed and tasseled scarf slipping forward over my shoulder. Both threaten to tangle between my feet and trip me up. My husband offers to hold the scarf – he is right ahead of me on the stairs, just behind my mother. In my free hand, I gather scarf and skirts; I thank him, but assure him it’s fine

Glancing over my shoulder, I see the staircase double back on itself a multitude of times; a steady current of people files up the steps as far as the eye can see. For such a crowd, in such close quarters, we are exceedingly polite, inching forward together steadily. Looking ahead, I’m relieved to see that my mother has reached the landing outside the elevator doors.

The line comes to a standstill. Just over the landing’s lip, I see three sealed elevator doors gleam softly golden. Set within the center of each door is a circular window which stares like a blank, dark eye. Each door is likewise crowned in a half-circle – segmented and numbered – over which an ornate arrow marks each elevator’s slow descent.

The soft voices of those around me lap and echo within the stairwell’s narrow throat. I decide to give my scarf to my husband after all and unwind it from about my neck. When I hand it to him, I stumble backward and bump against the woman below me on the steps. Quickly, I apologize, tell her that I felt suddenly faint – this is not true, but it seemed better than admitting to clumsiness. Unperturbed, the woman kindly offers a piece of advice: to keep from feeling faint while on board, I should keep my focus fixed toward the North. She points up at the elevators, and repeats herself: North. I thank her, smile and nod, and wonder how on earth any one can tell where “North” is inside this windowless stairwell?

Suddenly, there is a great, cavernous groan and an enormous shudder – we all grip the banister as everything trembles. The floor, the stairs begin to tilt sickeningly. Still sealed, the elevators swim slowly upward to take the ceiling’s place. A sodden weight of dread compresses my chest. A desperate panic lodges in my throat. Silence has stolen my voice. But I understand – as we all do, trapped in this slowly inverting stairwell – that a tidal wave has capsized the ship. It is only a small matter of time before the sea spills in and we all drown.

Wild Ride — A Dream

Nimbly, eagerly, the little car leaps forward when I depress the accelerator. I had forgotten how well this car suits me, how comfortable I feel in it and how it seems to respond to my very thought. Exiting the business complex’s driveway, I dart onto the empty main road, zip through the red light, and perform a fleet and elaborate K-turn at the intersection’s far side. But my plan to save time, to take advantage of the ‘right turn on red’ rule, is for naught – the light has turned green by the time I have the car fully rotated. Gunning the engine, the car’s tires squeal, but stick to and grip the road, send me racing around the corner. From the corner of my eye, I glimpse a spectacularly enormous pine tree, its limbs themselves the size of tree trunks. Can’t stop, no time to spare…

Immediately, the road curves sharply right and disappears under a skin of water far deeper than I realize. The little car throws up liquid sheets as we plunge onward, but my fierce and exhilarating journey slows, halts. The car’s engine sputters, and the cabin begins rapidly to fill. Pushing against the external flood, I force the door open to exit and am instantly soaked to the hips. At this point, I realize I have a passenger. I instruct her to help me lift the car – spreading our arms and placing three fingers from each hand beneath the car’s jack points, we easily lift and glide it along the water’s frictionless surface.

Reaching the flood’s far side, we set the little car down by the curb. It gushes water – from cabin and trunk, engine and wheel wells, from all its seams and depressions. Its heads are wet, and there’s water in the fuel tank. Walking away, I leave it on the roadside in the sun to dry out. It will be some time before it runs again.

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“Wild Ride” — C.Birde, 10/16

Shift — A Dream

As far as the eye can see — water. As if the land itself has shifted its elemental nature, exchanged solid certainty for the mercurial, the mysterious. And he and I, adrift amidst it all.

Perched atop a dining room table, we float unmoored within a vast sea that stretches to all horizons. Wavelets slap the table, send small plumes and rivulets over its smooth surface. The formica top grows slick. I kneel within an ever-shrinking dry patch to one side of the table’s central seam. In contrast, he sits at the other edge, dangling his feet, with blue-edged water creeping over his knees.

Shins and knees squeaking on formica, I begin sliding down the dining table’s incline. Toward boundless water. Toward him, where he laughs and talks and splashes feet and hands, oblivious. But my incremental advance soon stops. Before my eyes, I see him shift, exchange his cumbersome human form for something sleeker, smoother, more well-suited to our surroundings. His clothes and shoes slip into the water, drift away on its currents as he glides off the table in his new form — a sea lion. Watching him dive and swim and roll, I laugh. This form suits him.  He suddenly makes complete sense to me.

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“Shift” — C.Birde, 7/16