You pass into sleep in the House of Pain,
in the room where wounds will no longer
heal, where the needle prick sends life
stringing back into your bloodstream.
It’s a black and white dream,
a sad conflation of The Wizard of Oz
and The Island of Lost Souls.
Tornado’s coming! shrieks the Leopard Girl,
while the Scarecrow and the Tin Man
scramble for the dinghy that will take them
back to the fog-drenched ship.
Get out! screams Dorothy, half-woman,
half-dog. Get out while you still can!
You wake to brilliant Technicolor.
Same bed, same room, but the tubes
and machines are missing, no slow,
steady monitor’s beat, only birdsong
and wind, deep green meadow grass,
the sky, transcendent blue.
Same room but the walls are gone.
The house itself is gone. All of the sharp corners
are smoothed, the straight, slashing sounds,
the traffic, the sirens. The air is filled with bees.
You crawl from bed, fully healed, and head
to a village. You spot your house and move in.
It’s just that simple. The villagers don’t talk
about heaven or hell. No one worries about sin.
Daily routines are enough to satisfy
and the pantries restock themselves
at night as you sleep. At first you worry
it’s all a dream and will dissolve
back into the hospice room.
Then you worry that there’s no need to worry.
Then, you forget. Forget what worry
was ever about. The weather’s fine and
summer’s eternal. Such an autonomous
dream, this paradise. Listen to the wind
in the reeds along the lakeshore,
how they lash the air, how they sing.
William Reichard is a poet.