Zoetrope

The Iowa Review - - FRONT PAGE - Joshua rivkin

A black river is what I imag­ine will open in the dream I’m still hav­ing. Not awake but awake.

The dream does its tiny light show, a zoetrope in­vis­i­ble to the wak­ing. An on­go­ing hap­pen­ing in my ab­sence.

I imag­ine your mother read­ing to me. She says ev­ery­thing will be fine. Ev­ery­thing will be right as snow. Your mother

lovely as a tea ket­tle.

In one dream a dog on the isth­mus of a hill points her face into skunk and fu­ture. A fig­ure like a don­key kicked star on the fore­head of a man.

I am all in­side and for­get­ting.

I think of the em­per­ors who built grand cities with cit­i­zen bones, how they left hi­ero­glyph­ics un­fin­ished to mark the world

al­ways, and still, be­com­ing.

I think: la­dle of the moon, bro­ken bit of the drill, cast­away but­ter dish. I’m try­ing to fill one worry with another.

A quiz: Would you rather wake up in the body of a po­lar bear or wear the skin of a lizard? True or False: Gun­fire can be heard across town. Yes or No: The cars echo like per­fect rapids, one sound clasped to another.

This zoetrope of de­sire, of dream. Zoetrope, lit­er­ally life turn­ing, isn’t a word in Greek but formed by the col­li­sion of need and in­ven­tion and com­merce.

Turn. Frag­ment. Break apart. Re­peat.

Sleep isn’t the is­land or the ocean. It isn’t the moon or the dream of the moon. It’s the sky above a ship­wreck, stretch­ing blue­ness with no place to stand. A sky clear and bright:

a July heat wave, a bad house­guest, an un­sat­is­fied lover. Sleep isn’t death. And it is, and it isn’t.

Some­times, pac­ing, I carry a glass of wa­ter filled to the top. I carry it as if it were a flash­light in the dark.

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