River of Dreams by Kathryn Kulpa

River of Dreams

I favored the mirror, a river of dreams. I wanted to wade in it, to close my eyes and open them someplace else. Salt water cradles; it won’t let you drown. I believed in the other side of the mirror. I was the sleepwalker. You stayed awake, kept watch. Still I remember everything. Every room of our house, every hiding place: the shaded triangle behind the neighbor’s bulkhead in summer, the patch behind the raspberry bushes we called “the haystack” in winter, when we’d bury ourselves in dried grass to stay warm. The TV room in the basement, speckled shag carpet that never showed stains. You’d get me out of bed early on Saturday mornings and we’d sneak down to watch cartoons. Shoes we didn’t know outside our mother’s room meant cereal for breakfast, and if there were no bowls we’d use coffee cups, and if there was no milk we’d pour it into a popcorn bowl and eat it dry. You’d complain about how useless Aqua-Man was and how much better Batman would be without Robin and I’d fall asleep again, listening to the dog snore, using up all my goings-away in dreams, never dreaming you were saving all of yours for the real world. You never understood why my bookshelves bulged, why I read the same books over and over. Why read a book again when you know how the story ends? Wendy grows up and forgets the way. Dorothy chants: There’s no place like home. The dreaming ends when Alice wakes up. Who’d choose the man-village over the jungle? Who’d give up being kings and queens in Narnia to be solicitors and vicar’s wives in Wolverhampton? Who’d choose Kansas over Oz? But Alice looks out of the mirror. Alice wakes up. Alice always wakes up.

by Kathryn Kulpa

Editor’s Note: Prose poems give up line breaks, and must carry the reader with mere words. This prose poem’s narrative descends into surreality, in keeping with the fictional nods, and emphasis on emotional imagery. Very few poems give me chills these days, but the end of this one did.


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