poem

by Elizabeth Dodd


From The Workbook for the Interpretation of Dreams: Leibniz or Neoliberal Allegory? Show Your Independent Work.


In the lobby no one is wearing a mask.


I’ve got off the bus at the wrong hotel—this one is hosting a conference as well, which perhaps explains my confusion since I’m here to give a talk—but I’ll have to head back to the city center and the Grand Hyatt / the Double Tree / the Regency / whatever. I know this is a poor choice even as I’m doing it, but I head out walking.


The land tilts, green and looming like the angle of the headland where once I visited Hutton’s Unconformity, the uplifted ribs of graywacke far below, no path or handrail to guide your sharp descent. Millions of years of missing mudstone and the sea beyond. I think, maybe I should turn back, try to hail the bus again, but I don’t, I can’t, all my second thoughts lie dropped along the way like bread or pebbles.


*

Flagstones, benches—mossy green and taupe.

When I reach to touch them, my hand passes right through.


I try again and this time feel the sun-warmed marble; I press my palm against the texture of resistance.


*


The dream, of course, is shredded, and I can’t remember where this part goes: a woman tinkering with a boat on a trailer in a parking lot the color of smoke. She squats beside the axle, tightening or loosening some minor part. Nearby, somebody guns an engine, the trailer bucks, and the woman cries out as she is knocked aside. I find her trapped in a ruined storm drain and, to my shame, I hesitate before I reach to help her scramble free.

Then I turn so quickly my story and hers rebound from one another, into the libertarian clarity of the empty street.


*


I remember once, so many years ago, a field trip to a blanket bog. We picked our way across the wetland’s skin. Encircled by the quaking ground, the bus and driver out of sight, we formed two lines ten yards or so apart. We took turns, one group jumping in unison—clasp hands, one, two, THREE—then watching while, across the bog, the others felt the silent wave we’d made arrive beneath their feet.


Elizabeth Dodd is nonfiction editor of Terrain.org. She teaches creative writing and environmental literature at Kansas State University. Her most recent books are Horizon's Lens (essays) and the anthology co-edited with Simmons Buntin and Derek Sheffield, Dear America: Letters of Hope, Habitat, Defiance, and Democracy.