Waking up in a swaddling of satin, concubines awaiting ovient. My faithful valet draping my skin in silk wraps, fruits and spice abound, as I am led to the baths. Water nymphs, their supple bodies splashing together, laughter; the ripeness of lips, curves, treasures breathe in heaves. Alone now, dark corridors, a sunbeam bursts in the courtyard; the throngs on either side hanging from turrets like unripe fruit from steps and pillars, the creeping hushes of the hall. I am led to chambers of opulent garnishing, sails of sateen parachute the steady breeze amassed by the fragrant ocean. A coronation filled with flowers, spices and the scents of the multitude awaits the boy king. A girl of amaranthine loveliness awaits as the end of the procession approaches, a voice raised and hands intertwined, they repeat the pledge to oversee the flock. The ritual complete, a chanting reverberates through the crowd sweeping across the courtyard, voices that had barely uttered, turned up in volume, filled with passion:
Drachira! Drachira! Drachira!
Alone and older, I am seated on a throne of pewter and brass; velvet cushions and glass shards adorn the seat, one for luxury, one for temperance. One by one, they enter, the numbers evolving amid the din of dispute, the pardons of digressions, a weeping soul begs on bent knees; prostrate, for her loved one. Still another consortium tells tales of the North filled with the supplication of freedom. Weaving mental pictures float endlessly in the hollow echoes of the chamber, foraying pillagers, bludgeons of destruction, and the unending serpentine of chains enslaving humans. The growing clamor of egalitarians fills the hall, virulent soundless speeches, silent entreaties to locate the beloved, the collective abhorrence of the multitude; but all judgment is left in my hands and more pressing matters at stake. In attendance before me flock hundreds and hundreds, but thousands and thousands must die and all will absolutely. In my madness, I know this as they beat their chests and paw the ground like worked beasts, Compassion dies; I feel only a dull sickness for these swine—smiling, nodding, knowingly. Feel only sickness, my head swirling with the pleadings, the faces submerged. I catch my breath but there is none and I know now that I am dreaming; now I must wake. Wake the passion but pain emerges, the burning from lungs, to wake, a pristine accomplishment to wake. I am suddenly bolt upright gasping for breath, wring a neck still in the court, the axeman grinning as they come towards me arms outstretched and outside the wailing of a name:
Drachr! Drachr! Drachr!
as the ancient bells toll harshly in the tower
Clank! Clank! Clank!
September 25th 2020
Roger Miller’s eyes popped open to the clanging of the garbage truck outside. How appropriate, he thought, as he grabbed the pillow and stuffed it over his head. The banging increased, and he realized with a groan that it was his own head pounding. He turned face down in the bed and pulled the sheets over, then grabbed the pillow once again and used it like a muffle chamber. Eyes shut tight; he took several deep breaths, and tried to reenter the dream. Was it a wedding? Coronation? Holiday? he hated the helplessness of losing the threads of remembrance, like missing the end of a movie or football game. Outside the mechanical mayhem abruptly stopped and he could hear shouting, but could not detect the language; could have been Spanish or Korean, all languages sound the same under a pillow in Koreatown, southern Los Angeles.
The shouting over, his head dulled by the pillow, Roger drifted into the familiar pattern of a recurring dream. His father, long gone, and he of about age eight or so treading water in the Butler Chains, Central Florida. It was 1998, and Candle in the Wind played on the boom box sitting on the shore. Man and boy, they neither floated up nor plunged down; just lazed in the water like two Tiger Lilies. They crawled out of the woodwork. Beside them the wooden boat that his father had made by hand in their garage swayed in the waves of the river. And they whispered in your brain. The last point in time where man and boy would always dwell in Roger’s mind.
Further up on the beach, he could make out his mother, her blouse willowing in the breeze, exposing her one piece. Never knowing who to cling to when the rain set in. She wore overlarge sunglasses, making her look like a movie star. She was wildly waving for them to come up for lunch. But I was just a kid. Her Edith Bunker voice belying the beauty that radiated from her. She had stuck with his father from Polaris missile tests in Alaska to space rover tests in Seattle, and from a top secret assignment in Panama to unmentionable in Hawaii, as his work in aerospace took the family from one outpost to another. Loneliness is tough At the time of the dream, his father was working at the Cape, but living in Orlando, his long trek to and from work running late into the evenings, made him more a specter in their lives than an actual person, and pain was the price you paid, more a rumor.
Time shifted to them sitting together on a blanket in the sand; mother and father eating bologna and pickle sandwiches. He ate peanut butter and jelly; it was the best tasting sandwich ever in the whole wide world. From his childhood view, his life was wonderful; Mickey Mouse down the road, Shamu next door. It was during that lunch that his parents had told him that he was adopted, not really theirs, not biologically. I would have liked to known you but I was just a kid. It was the last time he could remember getting along with his father or his father being well. As a tween, he had somehow felt responsible for his father falling ill, and being unable to work, your candle burned out long before mummified in that hospital bed in their living room. He remembered the bickering fights, he as a teenager, up all hours getting into mischief and his father impotent to do anything about it. That day on the shore was the last time he had eaten a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
The dream reemerged, a young Roger swimming in the cypress tinted water; he dove into the blackness, could make out a billowing white shroud. Swimming deeper and deeper, a face appeared pale and breathtaking. As always, she took his hand, her body wan and beautiful, led him back to the surface. Once again, they were interrupted; police cruisers wailed overhead, your legend ever did sirens approaching. The woman was speaking but her voice was a backward tape, drowned out by the police boats turning around the island like a Miami Vice scene. The boats were on top of them now, the sirens grew louder and louder.