The Lyric Dream Project: Dream 23

The hand grasps the pillow before the breath can find its release. This hand is your hand, is my hand, is a hand I feel but cannot name. You’re here and not here and in my waking I can only think of my head on your chest and your hands upon my back.

In my sleep I make the phantom of you real–my bed not empty, but full, cocooning us both in feather and cotton and wool.

To sleep alone at this age feels like a sin, a failing of the lungs, of the breath–as though breathing should really be the only expectation for grown people to share a set of sheets.

This is all to say, I miss you.

And I fall under again and in that way that life and dreams and dogma make one person three, you are you and my father and Tom Cruise. And we are getting married. Only two other couples will also marry in this hall, which looks like a hotel-church designed by an ironic architecture firm of agnostics.

I don’t know anyone at any of these weddings. Including you, because now, you’re mostly Tom Cruise. But Tom seems alright, so we do it, and the place smells like gardenias.

We’re married and we dance and it’s like prom in high school and everyone starts dancing to KC and JoJo. Tom says he’s always loved this song. And I think, Why’d I marry this guy? And isn’t he already married to Katie Holmes and wasn’t it you I wanted to marry?

So, I look closer at Tom and now you’re there, too, somehow, and I feel better. We leave our own wedding and try to find our room, which, when we do, is occupied by my parents, both alive, both cuddled under the duvet watching Murder She Wrote. They’re eating popcorn, wondering why we’ve come so late; the show’s half way done.

We leave them to their popcorn, because, y’know, it’s our wedding night and we gambol through hotel church singing, “Take My Breath Away” and your hands are warm in my hands and my dress is slinky and feels like water on my skin.

Tom Cruise

Michelle Peñaloza grew up in Nashville, Tennessee and earned her M.F.A. from the University of Oregon. Her poetry has appeared most recently in The Asian American Literary Review, TriQuarterly, Hobart, Hyphen, and INCH. She is the recipient of fellowships from Kundiman, the Richard Hugo House, and Oregon Literary Arts, as well as scholarships from VONA Voices, Vermont Studio Center, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference. Her latest project, landscape / heartbreak, is forthcoming from Two Sylvias Press in Spring 2015. Michelle lives in Seattle.