My body, betrayal is like
car hoses leaking in a drive,
ship hulls cracking at sea,
horses’ spines stabbing the riders.
My mind, failure is like
trash in the desert,
paper notes burning.
My spirit, loss is like
waiting hours for pickup by dad,
defending against sis,
learning I’ve long strangled myself.
Recently, I dreamed at night about riding a horse (not one I’ve known in the waking world) whose spine felt as if it was about to burst out of its back to impale. The hard ridge of vertebrate jabbed up into me. I was scared.
That ridiculous fear is not one I’ve had before, even in the distant days of riding my father’s horses and ponies bareback (as in, without a saddle or blanket). What did the dream mean?
I figure that fear was the translation of the threat from my own spine. Because dreams allow it, I existed simultaneously as the horse and rider. In reality, my back has been hurting nonstop for years now, and on the worst days, I feel as if any movement will destroy me.
That self-analysis inspired this poem, made up of memories and nightmares.
This science fiction poem might reflect today’s world events.
A more personal experience from almost three years ago is also reflected in it. While moving long distance for a new life, my health failed. Because so much was dependent on my ability to work, or at least to negotiate, my vague dreams were quickly destroyed. With intimidating debts and what felt like no way to escape a hostile environment where my disabilities put me in danger from the apathetic people and organizations I needed for survival, I could feel almost no hope. In attempts to rise beyond feelings of hopelessness, I frequently wondered if, on my death, my body would return to my childhood home.
I have written several poems and a short story from my feelings at the time. Each goes into a different genre. “Guts to Moon Dust” was a near-future imagining of the ageless story about a dangerous journey to what was promised to be a better life, but which ends with entrapping disappointment.
I would very much like it not to be anyone’s future.
In my mind, “Gifts of Gods and Men” is in part about how a ruler sets up the first human woman to be blamed for spreading sickness and death into the mortal world. Readers are of course welcome to different interpretations.
The poem is in the Winter 2020 issue of The Cascadia Subduction Zone, which contains visual art, reviews, flash fiction, and more poetry. Digital copies of the magazine issue are available from the publisher’s website for $3 (USD).