by Molly Tolsky
In my last dream before waking—the only part of my dreams I lately remember—I found myself in the kitchen. What time it was, I didn’t know. I didn’t look at the window; I didn’t know how the room was lit. I didn’t know what time of day it was, and yet I also knew my wife and daughter were asleep. I was barefoot. No, I am barefoot—dream’s awful present-tense. I walk around. I think I am doing the dishes, but the dishwasher is closed. My feet stick slightly to the ground, a fact which, in the dream, begins to annoy me more and more. At every step my foot sticks, and standing still, looking down at the floor, I see against the pale wood drops of honey. The honey is everywhere: misshaped circles limned by dirt. Wherever I step, I step on the honey, and in the dream I blame my daughter for this mess, this mess that now I must clean up, first the floor and then my feet—for this I blame my daughter. The dream becomes this blame.
I wake up with the dream in my mind. As always, as everyone does, I wonder about it, but I don’t think about it too much. Though guilt has replaced annoyance, it is a vague guilt—placeless, sourceless. I think about my daughter spilling sweetness on the floor.
I wake up before my family does so I can read and drink coffee. I open the blinds so I can look out and see the buds on the poplar tree, the frost on the cars in the street. I turn on the lamp and read in its light. The book I am reading has the image of a coin that bears the image of a horse imprinted on its first page; it is an ancient coin, but there are coins that are older. The author notes that this coin—Gaelic, if I remember right (and only this morning read)—is a , wondrously but mistakenly accomplished replica of a Greek coin that bears the god Hermes’ face. Hermes, that trickster god of poetry, lyre’s creator, and inveterate liar. The author sees in the hindquarters and tail of the horse the mis/reinterpreted profile of the god. I can’t see it myself, but I want to see it.
The furnace kicks on in the early spring chill. I put the book down to look out the window and see the orange balloon my daughter drew a face on—curly hair in black ink, eyes made of three circles, circle for a mouth and one around it for lips, all in thick, shaky line—floating in the air the register pushes into the room. (She has taken to doing this somewhat obsessively, drawing faces on the head-shaped balloons, which slowly shrink and wizen as the air escapes. The mortal quality of child’s play has come to vaguely frighten me, as if in play they’re practicing death as much as they’re practicing living.) The balloon face is turned toward me as if it is looking at me. It does not blink because it cannot. It hovers unevenly in the air, bobbing from side to side, moving up and down, caught in the uneven current that keeps it aloft. And it seems as if this head, filled with my breath but given a face by my daughter, keeps nodding assent or dissent, over and over again, and whether it is saying to me yes, or saying to me no, I cannot tell. It hears some question I do not know I’ve asked; and it gives me its answer, which I cannot understand; and does so repeatedly, unendingly—that is, until the furnace turns off and the face falls down and rolls away, and is no face no more.
Dan Beachy-Quick is the author of five books of poetry: Circle’s Apprentice, North True South Bright, Spell, Mulberry, and This Nest, Swift Passerine; five chapbooks: Apology for the Book of Creatures, Overtakelesness, Heroisms, Canto, and Mobius Crowns (the latter two both written in collaboration with the poet Srikanth Reddy); and a book of interlinked essays on Moby-Dick: A Whaler’s Dictionary. Reddy and Beachy-Quick’s collaboration has recently been released as a full-length collection, Conversities, from 1913 Press. Milkweed Editions has also published a new collection of essays, meditations, and tales, Wonderful Investigations.