In her sleep, she dreams herself thirsty.
Night sweats plague her oasis of pillows. She wakes, eyes the half-light of a February morning and listens to her alarm clock sing. The tune reminds her of nothing reasonable. If only, she sighed in her mind, it sang like a mockingbird. A bird whose song she could understand. A bird whose song asked for nothing. She imagined the notes of birdsong flying across the landscape of her body to champion the day. She wished for that in the way that small children need their mother. That would be reasonable. She closed her eyes and conjured this dream:
A glass fills itself with water, fits just so inside the curve of her palm. The glass is familiar! Usually she drinks wine in it. But not today, water will stay water today. She places it inside a paper bag with handles. Then she puts on a dress abloom with peonies, combs her hair and washes her face with lavender soap. Lovely me, she coos.
Air turns to water and she lets herself wash back to the kitchen to collect the bag with the glass. Tides carry her out of her kitchen, through her back yard and into her garage where she unlocks her car and drives out towards the bright light of the desert. She never lets go of the bag. She never loses a drop.
The drive lasts as long as a lifetime in dreams.
In a heartbeat, in an instant, in a field lined with broken glasses, she empties hers. The earth warms beneath her watery feet. It feels like morning not night. Beginning not ending. She notices how very beautiful the sunset, how the sky is orange as candy and the horizon line brighter than the juice of a blood orange. The clouds begin singing in French. She smiles with her eyes wide open just like they do in the movies.
Credits roll. Alarm clocks sing. She wakes, aching for a cup of coffee.
Travelogue (minus the travel)
I ask an imaginary ocean
what do I need to travel with
I look for my reflection in the flesh of a leaf
neon veins pulse a message
what is this land where every home leaks tears
aboriginal shields float to the surface
my flesh builds a dirt-eating crust
I close my eyes to the sound of running water
sink into a bathtub dream of planets
opalescent orbs shot through with light
a micro universe born in a sea of desire
voices echo inside my mix-tape of memories
I don’t know who’s telling the truth anymore
Get me a another DJ for this dream I demand
All I need is a new map
a place to store shoes
a breast plate with buttons
luggage the color of forests
boneless and streamlined
I rise take my pulse forget the shadows
embrace this unnatural world
I won’t be scared off by beauty
I can see everything is already packed
just not in a suitcase
Red Converse All Stars
I want to wear red Converse All Stars
the tennis shoes of my basketball childhood
when the only language I spoke was Hoops
every court my jive dance kingdom
Fingertips sank into a leather orb
release sail swish
air bound ball going going gone
time stopped but the game never ended
Rhythms tapped into my blue arteries
serpentine ribbons of magenta and teal
danced beneath my changing shoes
suede loafers / matching socks
suits and ties grew above ground
I learned to count my steps
measure the flight path of a golden bird
I knew from dreams
Today outside my 14th floor nest
far from the scurry scurry dive and peck below
I sip coffee like a thirsty sparrow
The winter horizon suddenly green with spring
reminds me of my original beatbox happiness
pulse on top of pulse on top of pulse on top of pulse
all laced into a pair of red Converse All Stars
I still own
In the photo (Not in the photo)
Music swims back to me like a traveling ghost and there is no freeway running parallel to any direction called home.
I get a letter from you so far away and I am lost. I wish to sing, stop time, click my ancient Bic lighter, sway to a groove built in imaginary palm trees leaking sun through a rain-soaked sky. California in the 1990s. Nowhere near Switzerland where you are. Where you were yesterday.
You tell me maps fell like leaves. The ground went missing. Everything revealed in cuneiform, no translation available, language as wedge, sound a remnant of lives un-lived. All connective tissue destroyed as Pandora’s box opened in a Brussels airport. “Terror attack” you say and I can read. I hear the echo, the heat of an explosive, body parts sucked into the air, suitcases unpacked by shards of glass and a jumble of nails spewed out like a hurricane written in blood.
I paste your picture over the Blues Brothers wannabes pushing luggage carts on the front page of the NY Times. I change the soundtrack, listen to Aretha spell out R-E-S-P-E-C-T. I now read caverns abloom with lichen, sweet and edible as candy. Teal and aqua, salmon and lavender, a muted rainbow takes root in a tender earth. I see that for you and your children. Even though there were no people in your pictures of the Matterhorn, I know you are nearby. I know the children are OK.
Spring is almost here. It’s the day after Easter. Egg hunts begin anew.
surely there are songbirds nearby
the shadow of childhood announces itself in an ocean of toes
anemones in cartoon hues radiate grape soda purple
candy corn orange and popsicle scarlet conjoin
flow towards an unseen window
with a moonlit door to a golden room
where all my missing shoes live
where I’ve stored all my secrets
the ones I remember and hope for
the ones I’ve have lost but still want back
Now I lay me down to sleep
counting socks instead of sheep
6am grey washes my desk with shadow
I wait for the sun to draw new lines with light
the small lamp writes STAY onto a chalkboard sky
every detail will be a caress every color a kiss
let questions hide in the sock drawer
hooves and talons echo down the hall
the lion’s roar drown out any mournful cries
over shoes lost and found
or a broken jukebox
surely there are songbirds nearby
Maybe DJs Dream Like This
Lavender swans float into the big screen viewfinder in my head. Gunmetal grey computer keys shoot out shadows in Morse code. It’s noisy. I can see it’s me and the swans versus an evil techno-pop pulse. In one voice, we sing an old favorite, “Bah bah Black Sheep, haveyouanywool? Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full.” Eureka!! Cable-knit sweaters fall from the dark skies above us. Glow in the dark gold buttons lodge in the control panel where my heart is. Ancient planets come back to life in the sky. My mother is not dead. Every sweater fits. The buttons are made of marzipan and even though the dance floor is empty and the other children are asleep I promise all caped crusaders – though I do not really know him, I promise Batman too – that no love letters will go AWOL ever again.
I know I am not exactly in the picture. But I am the picture (!) and OH if I were a Bird I would fly into the dark and bring home every song I ever knew. Even the quiet would not be silent. Music exists. So spin, twist, turn, burn with a fire like the sun. Be. Build a fountain of sound out of all the yeses buried in the green buttons.
Small threads of teal-blue leak birdsong tender as water, soft as moonlight.
Can you hear?
Momma says I’m wicked
says I’m the little hydra that could
swaddles me in hospital green
softens my landing
when she can
She reads to me about a monkey with answers
who swings through invisible trees
wears a crown of disco songs
navigates rivers of lavender and teal
with a playlist Mama stashed in my diaper bag
I do not know how my footprints change size overnight
how my favorite toy a little green frog
requests money for college every time he croaks
Mamma says we’re traveling way too much
but I understand how all flight patterns begin in reverse
how roads know no more about where they’re going than we do
so red nail polish for good luck
blue for blankets I have loved
music for my mother’s arms
while I learn to learn my name
our yellow brick road changes color
so we dance on
and hold out for chartreuse
Marie Chambers received an MFA from the Professional Writing Seminars at Bennington College. Her work has appeared in The LA Review of Books, The Atlanta Review, Talking Writing, The Quotable, The Ilanot Review (Israel), Printer’s
Daniela Bershan is a visual artist and DJ best described as a media vagabond and fearless sampler. In her work – ranging from sculpture and performance to social organisation – the function of the DJ/Producer has slowly infected all aspects of practice. Ritualising and remixing circumstances on multiple strata of material, thought, text and sound, she dissects choreographies and scores, be they political or social, technological or musical. Proposing forms in order to make tangible how they operate, Bershan’s work extends into potentia-spaces for erotic/aesthetic practices and nonmonotonic thinking.