Ten Nights' Dreams
Lee Ann Roripaugh
(after Natsume Soseki)
1. Georgia O’Keefe
Buttery sunlight, water runs in another room. You wake to slow arousal and touch
yourself. Your sex—an unfolding origami—un-origamis into an unfamiliar flower.
An orchid? No. A lily? No. An iris?
The more you touch, the more baroque the flower grows. Petals—are they petals?
—larger, fleshier, shimmery mutabilities studded with molten horns and curls, a
glister of pollened freckles. Is it flesh or is it glass?
As you grow and spiral and open and shift, you become unsure of gender? Are you
an X or are you a Y? Phallus or cunt? Stamen or pistil?
Threshed purr, gruff rumbled droning, and a tiger stirs and stretches next to you,
then turns into an inverse, photo-negatived man—white-striped, a lightninged bee,
with a face you can’t quite see. He crouches over you and licks. The petals change
color under his tongue.
A maid knocks, unlocks the door. The man-eating tiger disappears. You try to hide
your enormous flower by parachuting a bed sheet into the air.
Can you come back later? you ask, as the sheet bells down around you like a
cool white jellyfish. I’m not finished sleeping.
2. Gem City: A Migraine Dream
Coasting down foothills into Laramie. Your father’s old gray Jeep: vinyled and squared,
filigreed in lace cuffs of rust.
Rockies’ chilled crust thrusts up hard, distorting the horizon.
Perspective all askew: Mountains much too large and much too blue, looming up much
too close too fast. You are not a child, but you slide back and forth in the middle of the
front bench seat, knees jogging the gear shift. The parents in the car are not your parents.
Alco’s cracked neon on the left closed down years ago. Lost effervescence of
wind-bobbled balloons frantically bubbling in the no-longer-there car lot.
Clouds spill down off the mountains, twisting into dangerous, spiraling wraiths.
Are those tornadoes? you ask.
They flame in the too-loud wind like black dry ice, slivered with bright threads of lightning.
Is it war? you ask.
They dervish off the sagebrushed plains toward the road.
Stop. Pull over, you say. I’m not wearing a safety belt.
The sound of unfurling metal, burning, shattered glass, hot wind. Everything goes blank.
An eyelid blinks open to sunlight, emptiness, the heart-shaped white behinds of curious
antelope retreating. Empty car, empty highway, everyone else gone. Mountains’ bright
prong ringing an empty town.
Radio’s static crackle, then chipped advertisements, like faded billboards in the wind:
it’s Joe Albertson’s supermarket . . .
on a sesame seed bun . . .
you’re in good hands with All State . . .
Lee Ann Roripaugh
Author Discusses Poems