The Lyric Dream Project: Dream 20

The bears are swimming in a flesh-hued bay, surrounded by shoals of flesh-colored sand, viscous sand, the kind that’s long mingled with the earth, a binding clay, muddled in with the light beige sand. In the dream I think flesh, and then bears. In the dream I know my notion of flesh is narrow– this is a flesh like mine, a world viewed through light-green eyes set deep in a white girl’s face, and I think, not flesh then. Mushroom, fawn, oat. And then, just beige. Just sand. But this is not where I want to linger; I want to linger on the bears, the sleek submerged coats rising to the dry, tufted heads, the brown snouts like narrow, blunted rudders. I watch from a vantage behind a wire fence. There are others watching, too; the bears pay no mind. The bears are focused, gliding through the water with purpose. You’d think they are intent on fishing, on spearing slick, pearled bodies on their curving claws. But I am sure in the way of dream-knowledge that there are no fish. I am sure the bears know, too. Why the swimming? Why the back-and-forth, dark determined forms crossing and recrossing from one lip of land to another? They live– their bodies move, nostrils huffing spouts of steam into the air. But something vital has been extracted, some light or soul or glee or lust: gone. Only their ache to cross the bay, back and forth, and none of them touching. Watching them, I feel something splinter in my chest, and there is no other way: I climb the wire fence, grasping each link with dumb, human hands. They catch, and there is a tearing of flesh, my hands like paper or bleeding fabric. I clutch them to my chest, their wet heat finding the splintered thing inside me. And then I am in the beige-hued bay, wading towards the swimming bears, knowing I cannot help them, knowing this is arrogance, and going anyway.

Swimming Bear

Kelly Dwyer is a poet living in Portland, OR. She holds an MFA from the University of Oregon.